Baseball and softball teams at the South Side Little League field recently finished their fall season, and were grateful for the long-awaited opportunity to “play ball!”
Throughout the fall, Little League games continued every weekend since the middle of September, with the first game starting at 8:00 a.m. and the final game at 2:00 p.m., said Roy Ortiz, president of the Southside Little League and president of the Lynfield Community Center.
The season ended on Oct. 31.
Ortiz previously coached Little League baseball for 15 years. Today, he continues to offer training for children at the batting cages in his spare time.
“The league keeps kids involved in sports instead of staring down at their phones,” Ortiz said. “They will build some memories that last a lifetime.”
Mike Trehey’s community-impact administrator role at a local elementary school connected him to Ortiz and the league.
Trehey has held a spot on the South Side Little League Board of Directors since January.
Trehey said the league was shut down for about three years until the 2021 fall season.
He said South Side Little League almost merged with another league until the city announced at the end of February that they changed their minds.
“Every Little League in the Bethlehem municipality was given $10,000 as part of the FEMA rescue and COVID Cares Act,” Trehey said. “The city was actually going to give us $10,000 to do the work.”
Trehey said in mid-June, a baseball tournament director in the local area agreed to help get the fields back to “a working standard” in the South Side.
He said the baseball field, located on Hellertown Road, is about 75 years old. In 1938, South Bethlehem only had one baseball field, and today, it has three.
“This Little League started from nothing, and that doesn’t mean everything has to come from something,” Trehey said.
Robledo organizes the district’s community work with the South Side.
She said she is happy to see that Ortiz is continuing to run the local league for children, especially as the cost of youth sports rises.
“The financial cost to play organized sports here keeps kids from continuing, so we need to provide the avenues to help families pay the fees to keep kids active,” Robledo said in an email.
Despite the season coming to a close, funding is still critically needed moving forward to keep the field in shape and safe for children to play on.
Ortiz said the city has deemed the Bethlehem area to be in a flood zone, which explains why the field has undergone heavy damage in recent years from weather.
He said Hurricane Ida brought about the 10th flood the area has seen in the last 15 to 16 years, ruining their baseball equipment.
Ortiz said the funds raised will also benefit the 83-year-old concession stand that is in need of repair. He said he believes the concession stand will be put on stilts to avoid further flood damage, and believes it needs to be modernized.
“It’s like a time capsule,” he said. “The whole thing is made out of wood. I think it’s time for a new concession stand.”
Ortiz said he was getting volunteers to come and clean up the field during the week due to fall ball occurring every weekend.
In addition to being South Side Little League president for two years, Ortiz is also the president of the Lynfield Community Center, the only community center open on the South Side.
Ortiz said the community center is a great hub for school-year planning to occur, and it hosts homework club and PTO meetings for the Bethlehem Area School District.
He said the community center has provided 150 paid meals for Thanksgiving to families in need.
Dr. Michael Alogna, principal at Freemansburg Elementary School for the past seven years, said he has had the pleasure of being acquainted with Ortiz not only through the Lynfield Community Center but also because his children and his wife, Malta, attended Freemansburg.
“It’s this mutually-beneficial relationship where they’re taking care of the kids in the community in ways that we can’t, and then we’re also supporting on the other side,” Alogna said of Ortiz’s community center and league.
Alogna said one of the biggest poverties today is that people don’t have the communities they once did and Roy and Malta provide that community.
Alogna said the progress in working to fix the baseball field is a testament to Ortiz.
“The level of maintenance that Roy brings to the South Side Little League program and field, it’s like an expectation,” Alogna said. “That expectation of, ‘what would I want for my own children?’”
Ortiz has set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $10,000 to make essential repairs to the historic fields. So far, the campaign is at $760.