Creating community through baseball

Walter "Pop" Smith Little League brings together children and families.

Walter "Pop" Smith Little League builds friendships and teaches life lessons

Players and families celebrate the end of the summer baseball season at Walter "Pop" Smith Friends & Family Day. Photo credit: PhotosbyDexter.

When the Walter "Pop" Smith Little League first started in 1952, the kids played with wooden bats and the field was on the corner of Goffe Street and Sherman Avenue. Bat materials have changed since then and the field has moved up the block. Yet the game of baseball itself has remained the same and it still has that magical power to bring together children and families.

"Baseball has great appeal to kids in all communities," says Walter "Pop" Smith President Lynair Walker. "You hear the kids in the dugout with their different chants during a rally. Those are the great things. Hearing the kids playing. The chink of the bat. Those are things that keep us going year after year."

Walter "Pop" Smith has a long and storied history. In 1974, it sent an all-star team to the Little League World Series that came in 6th place and earned the kids a trip to the White House. In 2006, it sent a team to a Little League World Series exhibition game.

Walker, who played in the league as a kid, considers baseball an outdoor classroom.

"You have to get the kids out there and let them test the waters and find out if they like something. It teaches patience. You have to do so much critical thinking. And, you have to have a love for the game," Walker says.

Walker adds that the league teaches commitment to the community, sportsmanship, honesty, loyalty and courage through baseball.
About 300 boys and girls, largely from the Dixwell, Newhallville, Hill, and Westville neighborhoods play in the league. Teams start with T-ball age 4 up to a "majors" division for age 12.

To fund its operations, the league runs a concessions stand at its field. This past spring, The Community Foundation provided the league with a year-round small grant to buy new equipment required by the health code and new baseball bats to meet Little League regulations.

The William Henry Taylor Fund, a designated fund established at The Community Foundation for the Walter "Pop" Smith league, also provides funding support. The fund is actively raising money to increase its endowment for the league.

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Learn more about Walter "Pop" Smith.

Did you know?

In Little League Games, every player is required to bat at least once in a game.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.