Dave Wojeski/For The Recorder Amsterdam Youth Baseball League umpire Steve Porcello holds the bat of St. Mary's Healthcare batter Shaeden Gowan as a pitcher warms up during a recent playoff game at Isabel's Field.
Dave Wojeski/For The Recorder Amsterdam Youth Baseball League umpire Steve Porcello takes a break in between innings during a recent playoff game at Isabel's Field.
By ADAM SHINDER
In his fifth different decade as a part of Amsterdam's youth baseball scene, there's one very simple reason that Steve Porcello keeps coming back year after year.
"The kids," he said during a short break between umpiring an Amsterdam Youth Baseball League Minors Division playoff doubleheader Wednesday night at Isabel's Field. "It's all for the kids."
Porcello's nearly tireless involvement with Amsterdam Youth Baseball runs back to 1973, when he first started coaching. With the exception of a short break a little more than a decade ago, he's been involved ever since -- whether that be through coaching, serving as a league official or umpiring -- and when he finishes umpiring the AYBL championship series, which get under way tonight, it'll mark 39 full seasons that Porcello's been an integral part if youth baseball in the Rug City.
He's so much a part of the fabric of Amsterdam's youth sports community that, in 2013, he was inducted into the Amsterdam Baseball Hall of Fame. Currently the league's vice president of T-Ball, Porcello also handles the bulk of the umpiring duties for the AYBL alongside Joe Bellardini and Mark Robertshaw, and while others might've preferred to move on to umpiring games with older players, Porcello likes the roots that he's grown -- even with the few bumps and bruises he's taken along the way.
"I don't know how many times I've gotten bruised, but I'd rather do these guys than Babe Ruth and those leagues," he said. "I'd rather stay right here with the little guys."
Umpiring at the youth level, especially in Minors and Rookies Division games, also gives Porcello a chance to keep serving as a teacher to young ballplayers -- an opportunity that wouldn't be afforded to him at higher levels of the game.
"To me, it's still an instruction for them. I'm not certified, and if I see a kid doing something wrong, I'm the first one to help them," he said. "Certified umps, it's all about money and getting paid. Me, I'm about the kids."
That commitment to teaching the game -- and to his family -- roped Porcello back into coaching last season for the first time since he'd initially stopped in 1999.
"Last year, it was my granddaughter. I signed her up to play T-Ball, and the guy says to me, 'Well, if she's gonna play, they've got to have a coach,' so they conned me into doing T-Ball," he said with a smile. "But, I enjoy it. Without it, I'd be lost."
Porcello's passion for community sports has kept him in the league for 39 seasons, save for his short break when he disagreed with league officials who wanted to have Amsterdam's youth baseball program affiliated with Little League. Porcello, who at the time was helping to raise money and put up the building that now serves as the concession stand and announcer's booth at Isabel's Field, preferred the league retain its independent status.
"I was putting this building up and raising money, and they wanted to go to Little League," he said. "I wasn't for Little League. They wanted to play competitively, try and go to Williamsport (for the Little League World Series), but I didn't think the talent was here."
The Little League affiliation eventually ended, Porcello came back, and he's been there ever since, though he admits that every year, he's never quite sure if he'll be back for another season. At this point, with an election of league officers coming up in another month, Porcello said he's still not sure if he intends to return in 2015 to make it an even 40 seasons.
"I keep saying every year, 'I'm gonna retire,'" he said. "I sit home and I ponder on it and I say, 'What am I gonna do, sit home and do nothing? I'd still come up here.'"
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