By Linda Quinlan
lquinlan@messengerpostmedia.com
Irondequoit is back to having one youth baseball organization.

“It has been a great year of doing something as a whole town,” said Peter LaPietra, speaking of the All Irondequoit Athletic Association (AIAA), a merger of the Irondequoit Athletic Association (IAA) and All Irondequoit Sports Association (AISA).

Their new slogan is “one community; one league.”

The merge of the two organizations just became official this past January, but many who are involved are already seeing benefits.

One of the reasons the organization was selected for a pilot “Williamsport experience” at the Little League national headquarters in Williamsport, Pa. was what they’ve been doing with the program, said LaPietra. He has been on the baseball program’s board for three years and was its majors commissioner this year. He was just reelected to the board last week.

A team of 14 boys, 11- and 12-year-olds, was assembled and traveled to Williamsport the weekend of Oct. 4-6. They played three games, against teams from Victor, Brighton and Webster, in the Little League’s two stadiums , LaMade and Volunteer, there. Irondequoit won all three of its games.

Beyond the wins, “which were completely unexpected,” however, “every kid had the opportunity to shine; they left the weekend with special moments to take home,” Gardinier said.

He traveled to Williamsport with his son (who didn’t play), just to watch.

“Some of the plays the kids made were unbelievable ... It was great to watch them smiling (to play in a stadium) and so enthusiastic,” Gardinier said.

The community’s Little League charter dates back to 1954, said another newly reelected board member, Brian Gardinier, but since the Laurelton area of Irondequoit was not on the initial map, youth baseball, over time, developed “an east-west (Irondequoit) flavor.”

New “blood” and a new spirit on the board led to the merge.

It has been a transition year, as people from the two organizations tried to blend traditions, LaPietra said, but it seems to be working.

For instance, AISA always had a Seabreeze (amusement park) day and a pasta dinner. Those events are now incorporated into the AIAA. “We each brought something to the table,” LaPietra said.

“It (the merge) was rough at first,” admitted newly reelected board member Tim Booher, explaining, “AISA was ‘mom and pop,’ at best ... We had just 200 people. Now there are 750 to 800 families.”

This year alone, AIAA had 700 girls and boys, ages 5 to 16 or 17, playing baseball and softball. Another 150 youth played a new “fall ball” program that was introduced just this year.

But, Booher added, “there have been tons of positives already ... The kids have tons more opportunities and our district baseball is of a better quality.” Another reason both organizations are glad the merger came about, Booher said, is securing fields.

“We need (baseball) fields (in Irondequoit),” Booher said. “”We have a great product and it will get better ... Hopefully, having one organization, it will be harder for the town to tell us no.”

A top priority of the AIAA, Gardinier explained, is having its own facility, or some type of land use agreement, where youth baseball takes precedence. Just three or four baseball diamonds would be great — and would allow AIAA to host its own tournaments, as a fundraiser, as other area towns do.

“We’re looking to the future,” LaPietra said.

Additional goals are increasing coaching development and increasing training for players, Booher said.

Irondequoit remains part of Little League District 4, and AIAA is already to looking to baseball signups in February. Indoor practice sessions start as early as January and run through March.

Board members, coaches, etc. are all volunteers.

“We have a real spirit of community,” LaPietra said.