G.V.L.L. wins its first-ever district championship


By Daniel Miller with Chad Stoller

It took 25-plus years. But after six action-packed innings under a high-noon sun with the “real feel” over 100 degrees, and no shade in sight beyond the hulking transformers that backdrop the backstop of scorched Con Edison Field, the 9-and-10-year-old “Villagers” team hung on to win their fourth straight game, in the process making history for the Greenwich Village Little League.

With the 9-8 victory over the West Side Little League Hawks, G.V.L.L. brought home its first-ever District 23 championship.

The 9-and-10-year-old team is made up of G.V.L.L. veterans, many of whom have played against one another, but never all together on the same community team. After blowing out their competition in the first two games with a combined run differential of 41 runs (not a typo), G.V.L.L. beat a strong Peter Stuyvesant team 5-1 at Inwood’s scenic field alongside the Hudson last week. That earned the Villagers a prized ticket to the Championship Game.

With over a week to prepare for a second Championship Game in as many years (G.V.L.L.’s 11s-and-12s lost the final game of the tournament last year), the Villagers came prepared to play, or as manager Chad Stoller said with conviction, “to take care of business.”

The groundbreaking day had its emotional twists and turns.

Ethan Ehrenberg, with two tournament wins already under his belt, took the mound for the Villagers, who quickly fell behind 1-0 after the first inning. Ehrenberg kept them close, until the offense took advantage of some West Side errors and exploded for eight runs in the top of the third inning, highlighted by clutch hits from Sam Crowson, Nolan Young and Drew Rosen.

After G.V.L.L. had staked an 8-1 lead, West Side clawed back with two runs in the bottom of the third. The Villagers tacked on another run in the fourth, but West Side came screaming back with five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, and were threatening to score more. The W.S.L.L. crowd, quiet with worry until then, roared like lions, as the G.V.L.L. faithful squirmed in the searing hot, aluminum bleachers.

The Villagers, already having gone through three pitchers in the game, called in Max Moss to shut the door on West Side’s rally. With no outs and the tying run on third base, G.V.L.L.’s Drew Rosen fooled the lead runner into going home and then threw him out as Nolan Young executed the tag at the plate for the first out in the inning. The Villagers then shut down the Hawks to escape the frame, while hanging onto a 9-8 lead.

The Villagers soon found themselves in the bottom of the sixth inning, three outs away from securing the first tournament championship in G.V.L.L. history. However, the Villagers’ path to victory was anything but smooth. Two consecutive errors and a walk loaded the bases, still with no outs.

Moss bore down and struck out the next batter for the first out. Nerves were wound tight. Diving to his right, Moss snared a grounder bound for short. On his knees, he fired a strike home to Nolan for the second out. With W.S.L.L. down to their last out and their fans chanting encouragement, Moss went to a full count on the West Side batter. Two outs, bases loaded, 3-2 count. A pitch fouled off. Then another. And on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Moss struck out the final batter looking at a fastball that painted the black, to seal a 9-8 win and the first G.V.L.L. District 23 Championship ever.

Greenwich Village Little League has been offering recreational baseball to youngsters living in the area since the mid-’80s. At its best, G.V.L.L. teaches players about sportsmanship, fair play and the value of working hard at something to get better at it. As one G.V.L.L. father, Paul Salmon, wrote to his son’s coaches this year, “Noah learned a great life lesson this year. If you apply yourself and work hard, practice, keep a positive attitude, and listen to the people around you, you can really turn things around and make a difference and have an impact.”

Some Little League tournament teams are exclusive to select players, and are set when kids are as young as 7 years old. In many leagues, players can register and play for more than two baseball leagues. Though school play is encouraged within the G.V.L.L. community, G.V.L.L.’s rules require that players under 12 must commit to the G.V.L.L. program exclusively. Joining a weekend league disqualifies players from registration. So the competition the G.V.L.L. tournament team faces does not meet the same conditions the league plays under, which makes the tournament team’s success that much more remarkable.

G.V.L.L. has flourished under great stewardship over its history. The board’s foresight on limiting pitch counts guided the path Little League of America eventually adopted. Medical research established that young pitching arms can be permanently damaged if pitch counts are not carefully monitored. And when a player participates in two leagues, pitch monitoring is difficult when the emphasis is put on winning at all costs.

Thanks to Manager Chad Stoller, Coaches Roger Ehrenberg, Bill Tibbals and Brian Crowson and Head Coach Nelson Young, the 9-and-10 Villagers came together as a team and played inspired baseball. Congratulations to Ryan Dennis, Raven Ennis, Henry Score, Ethan Erhrenberg, Nolan Young, Ry Cohen, James Bouknight, Sam Crowson, Max Moss, Will Tibbals and Drew Rosen — the first G.V.L.L. District 23 9-and-10 champions!