When the first pitch of the 2015 Riverhead Little League season was thrown, it wasn’t clear who — if anyone — would step up to the plate and serve as the league’s president after longtime volunteer Tony Sammartano announced he was stepping down.
But Riverhead Little Leaguers will be playing ball again next spring — this time behind the leadership of Scott Wicklund.
Mr. Wicklund, a Riverhead police officer, has been involved with the league “probably my entire adult life at this point,” he said. He took the reigns officially in September.
“It was kind of anticipated,” he said of stepping up to fill the role left behind by Mr. Sammartano, who previously volunteered as the league’s president for about 15 years.
Mr. Wicklund — whose three children played or are playing in the league — is eager to bring it “back to the Little League I grew up playing.” Namely, that includes naming teams after their sponsors such as the Lions, Riverhead Rotary, or the Riverhead Fire Department — not the Mets, Dodgers or Orioles.
“We are promoted by businesses and organizations that are in Riverhead and in return, we should promote them by putting them on our jerseys,” he said.
In addition to changing the names on the jerseys, registration fees are dropping considerably in the coming year, by $30 for each player. T-ball registration will start at $50 and players in the majors will play for $120 a piece.
The cut in costs will have to be offset somewhere else and Mr. Wicklund hopes highlighting sponsors’ names will draw some more advertisers back into the fold and fundraising efforts are being stepped up.
The league has held a recent fundraiser at Wendy’s— one of the two places (the other being Dick’s Sporting Goods) where registration will be held. And the new president plans a pancake breakfast at Applebee’s in coming weeks.
For Riverhead, the change in leadership comes at a time when other leagues have been unable to sustain themselves. Mr. Wicklund cited dropping numbers as something he would like to combat. Flanders Little League folded into Riverhead in 2014 while Wading River Little League quietly joined North Shore Little League in Rocky Point last spring.
But instead of less involvement, the Riverhead Little League Board of Directors now welcomes several new board members this year, including Roberta MacGray, who with her husband Stephen have been involved in the league for several years as well.
“I wanted to be part of Riverhead Little League’s success,” she said. “It seemed like the numbers have been going down and I wanted to make sure Riverhead Little League survived and I wanted to be a part of that.”
The league has a new website — RiverheadLittleLeague.com — and despite the fact that the first pitch won’t be thrown for several months, this is actually the time of year where board members are the busiest.
Registration for the league starts on Friday, Jan. 8, at Dick’s Sporting Goods. After that, it’s time to draw up the schedules, get umpires in order and communicate with other little leagues in the area.
But Mr. Wicklund is just fine with that.
“When I commit to something, I go all in,” he said. “I’m just hoping I make more good judgments than errors.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Scott Wicklund outside of the Riverhead Little League shed at Stotzky Park. (Credit: Paul Squire)