By Sandra Storey / Special to the Gazette
The Jamaica Plain Regan Youth League has been around—and flourished—for 50 years for good reason. The baseball and softball league has expanded over the decades, building on the solid foundation of community principles in place from the start.
As the season opens this month for the 50th time, more than 700 boys and girls between 5 and 18 from JP and neighboring communities are expected to learn skills and enjoy comaraderie with teammates from diverse backgrounds across the neighborhood, as young people here have been able to do through the Regan League since 1969.
Incredible community organizing combined with clearly stated goals have resulted in success and growth for the local youth league. The purpose of the Regan League is stated to be to provide children “with the opportunity to play organized baseball and softball in an open, safe, and friendly environment…to foster the discipline and fun that are part of learning a challenging team sport, to encourage a spirit of community among participants from diverse backgrounds…and to promote good sportsmanship and respect for teammates, opponents, coaches, umpires, and the great games of baseball and softball.”
Every spring and summer for 50 years, it has fulfilled its mission quite well.
Regan League president Jodi Sugarman-Brozan said in a recent interview she “quickly fell in love with it” when her kids started playing in the Regan League. “It’s much more than baseball and softball,” she said. “It’s a community that brings people together like no other.”
Lots of people report having made friends with other families they might not have otherwise gotten to know, past president and volunteer Harry Smith said recently.
There are plenty of chances for families to meet in the stands or when they go for food after a game. The regular season features various co-ed baseball divisions ranging from teeball for 5-6 year-olds to the Pony Division for 15-17-year. Girls 9-15 can play softball in two divisions.
During the summer, Regan League kids play Red Sox-supported RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner-cities) Baseball, and 13-18 year-old girls can play RBI Softball. The Regan League enters baseball and softball teams in the Mayor’s Cup Summer Tournament, too.
Baseball and softball are games of statistics, and numbers provided by Smith tell a lot about the Regan League as well.
In 2018 there were 52 teams with 632 boys and girls in the spring season, from Teeball to Pony to Softball. In the summer another 100 youth played baseball and softball.
The Regan League is one of the most diverse youth sports programs in Boston, according to Smith. There is strong Latino participation, representing more than one third of the participants. Girls make up about 25 percent of the League’s 700-plus players.
With more than 50 teams, the league needs at least 100 volunteer coaches every year, plus team parents, and volunteers to help with events and registration. The board of Regan League is all volunteer, too. Every year, volunteers donate thousands of hours.
The Regan League holds two major events each year. First is Opening Day In April, where teams in their new uniforms and coaches march from the Civil War Monument to Daisy Field for Opening Day ceremonies. The other big event is the annual end-of-year picnic, which will be on June 22 this year.
Past presidents include Gwen Friend, Steve Glickel, John Pierce, Mike Frank, Brad Fredericks, and Smith. Sugerman-Brozan has served as president for the past two years. Smith and Sugarman-Brozan, as well as the website reganyouthleague.org, provided information for this column.
The League is open to families in Jamaica Plain and surrounding neighborhoods.
“Because of the affordability of the League [The $40 fee even includes a uniform.] and the League’s reputation as a welcoming place for all families,” Smith said, more than 25 percent of the players come from surrounding neighborhoods of Roxbury, Roslindale, Mission Hill, Dorchester and Hyde Park.
In addition, families with more than one child playing get a discount. One reason the Regan League remains independent is to be able to keep fees low. The fees cover about half of a season’s costs, Smith said.
Local sponsors of the League and individual teams make a huge contribution each year. This anniversary year a team sponsorship is $650. Some businesses, elected officials and organizations have been sponsors for years.
In exchange, sponsors’ names go on the uniforms and mentioned at events and on the website. And they get the satisfaction of knowing they are contributing to JP community-building as well as sports instruction and fun for local kids.
Four years ago the League established the Dan Langdale Memorial Financial Aid and Scholarship Fund in honor of Dan Langdale, a lifelong baseball fan and friend of the League who passed away in 2014. In 2018 alone the fund offered almost $5,000 in scholarships.
The Regan League works with the City of Boston Parks and Recreation Department to make use of fields across JP including, Murphy, Jefferson, Parkman, Daisy, Johnson fields. The fields are pretty much filled up between April and July and also used throughout the summer.
“The Regan League was started in 1969 by a few parents in the Hyde Square section of Jamaica Plain to give children in the neighborhood access to baseball and softball opportunities. After one of the parents who helped found the league, Joseph Regan, passed away, the league was named the JP Regan Youth League in his honor. As other local Little Leagues folded, the Regan League continued to grow,” Smith wrote in an email.
“A number of Regan League players have gone on to have success at the high school and college level.” Smith continued. “The most famous Regan graduate is Manny Delcarmen, the former Boston Red Sox pitcher who grew up in Hyde Park and played for Regan League throughout his youth. With literally thousands of young people having graduated from the Regan League we are also proud of the police officers, teachers, doctors, youth workers, and many other distinguished alumni who learned from and grew up in the league.”
The Regan League has expanded in several ways over the years. With more and more young people from the area participating, the younger divisions especially have grown, now with 12 teeball and 10 Farm teams—all kids 8 and under..
Girls have been the focus of a different kind of recent expansion. The League started “Girls Play Ball” a few years ago to increase baseball and softball opportunities for girls. Out of that, some Regan League parents created the Boston Slammers girls baseball program so girls could play in tournaments across the country. The Slammers 11 and under team won the inaugural national Baseball for All championship in Rockford, Ill. in 2017. They beat teams from Washington D.C., Toronto, and Los Angeles before claiming final victory over the East Bay Oaks of Berkeley, Calif.
Hundreds of people and groups in JP—donors and volunteers—deserve credit for the achievements of the JP Regan Youth League for 50 years. Supporting the League and the young people and diverse families of JP seems to give the supporters pleasure. Anyone who would like to help the now historic League is welcome to contact them through their website.
“There’s something about a lovely summer day at Johnson Field,” Sugarman-Brozan reflected about families at a Regan League game. “Everyone is eating. Everyone is enjoying the game. It’s something that can’t be replicated.”