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Niskayuna Babe Ruth comes to life

It took one year for Tom Swyers and Bill Fredenburg to revive the Niskayuna Babe Ruth program.

Now, they're looking forward to a season in which Niskayuna will not only compete at the Babe Ruth level, but also at the Mickey Mantle and Connie Mack levels. The club is offering entries in the Eastern New York Mickey Mantle (15-16 age group) and Connie Mack (17-18) leagues for the first time. Both teams will be known as the Niskayuna Nationals.

The Niskayuna Nationals will play in these two programs against many of the best high school baseball players in the Capital District, said Swyers. "The younger Niskayuna Nationals team will be coached by local former high school players and two current college players."

At the same time, Swyers said the club " a part of the Niskayuna Baseball League " will not lose its focus on providing teen-age boys in the town a community-based program.

"We want to give just as much emphasis on the lesser-skilled players as the higher-skilled players," said Swyers.

Before Swyers and Fredenburg joined the Niskayuna Baseball League in 2007 (Swyers as a board member, and Fredenburg as the league president), the Babe Ruth program was limping along with a recreation program, two senior division teams and one 13-year-old division all-star squad. Most of the players who graduated from Niskayuna Cal Ripken (12 and under) either moved on to travel teams not associated with the town or lacrosse.

"The attrition rate was way above what it should have been," said Fredenburg.

What was worse, said Fredenburg, Niskayuna Cal Ripken players were being told not to participate in the town's Babe Ruth program once they turned 13.

"We were up against some really tough times and some really entrenched ideas," he said.

To turn the program's fortunes around, Swyers and Fredenburg turned to Colonie Babe Ruth president Jeal Sutherland and his wife, Rose Bikowitz, for advice. Sutherland spearheaded a similar growth spurt in South Colonie Babe Ruth several years earlier.

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