The Phillies’ first World Series appearance in over a decade has fueled interest and engagement for many amateur Philadelphia baseball leagues and programs, local coaches say, just like last time they were in the championships.
“From 2008 to 2012, we saw an uptick in the game — and we see it again with this season,” Steve O’Connor, co-founder of Philadelphia Adult League Softball, told Billy Penn. “With this recent uptick of people, we are expecting more teams and people to reach out in the coming spring.”
Along with codirectors Kelly O’Connor, Steve’s wife, he founded the group in 2012 with an inclusive mission. The organization runs mixed gender, slow pitched softball that is separated into four main leagues — 36 teams altogether.
Next month, the second round of the playoffs and the championship for their summer/fall 2022 league begins. It has been postponed from Nov. 1 to Nov. 4 so it doesn’t conflict with World Series Game 4.
Both O’Connors said the Fightins’ Red October run has led to increased excitement and even more passion among teams in the adult league.
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“It can clearly be seen on the field and how our players play the game,” Steve O’Connor said. “It truly allows people to be more attuned with the sport and all adult recreation sports players are reliving their childhood dream of watching the 2009 series.
That was the last time the Phils made it to the World Series, though they lost to the New York Yankees. Philadelphia won rings the previous year against the Tampa Bay Rays.
With the Phillies making a return to the Fall Classic, this time versus the Houston Astros, Kelly O’Connor said there’s been an uptick in interest, and that more people have been contacting the organization to sign up — more than they can handle, in fact.
“We have had a lot of people reach out for the waitlist this time around,” she said.
Anthony Verrati, the baseball president who runs an official Little League program at the Delaware Valley Youth Athletic Association, says this World Series run has sparked a new passion for the sport among the younger generations.
Dating back to 1957, the youth sports organization provides both baseball and softball training for kids aged 7 and up.
“It helps all around numbers. With the Phillies going back to the World Series the kids are getting back into [the sport],” Verrati said. “It’s part of why we started the softball league. Our organization has them playing in a league from April to June, then picks back up in fall.”
About 20% to 30% of the kids in fall usually carry over into the spring season. This time, he thinks the number could be even higher.
A baseball fanatic since adolescence, Verrati focuses on getting the next generation onto the field rather than the streets. He believes keeping them active and engaged helps the overall community.
“It’s exciting for us and the community to get kids engaged,” Verrati said
Though the Astros have been favored to win, Philadelphians are keeping the faith.
Even before Friday night’s impressive victory at Minute Maid Park, when the visiting team won a hard-fought battle in extra innings thanks to a diving catch from outfielder Nick Castellanos and a home run from catcher J.T. Realmuto, adult league organizer Steve O’Connor had confidence.
The longtime coach predicted, “Phillies in six.”