In being hired as the new Cheshire High School baseball head coach in October of last year, Alex LeFevre wanted to make a connection with young players, as well as build the Rams program. In the lead-up to his first season this spring, CHS coaches and players volunteered for things like Cheshire Youth Baseball Tee-Ball clinics and player evaluations.
“We tried to do a bunch of that throughout the off-season,” said LeFevre, who succeeded retired head coach Mike Lussier at the helm of the CHS program. “We are setting up with CYB and Cheshire Reds to get the players excited about being a Cheshire Ram baseball player.”
He feels that it means a lot for high school players to give back to the youth programs where they learned the game.
“It is important to have everyone involved,” stated LeFevre. “I think this is an awesome way to promote baseball in the community.”
Cheshire Youth Baseball/Cheshire Youth Softball is holding Opening Day events from April 28-30. For their part, CHS baseball is planning a special event to coincide with their home game against Branford on April 28 at 4 p.m. Youth players are being invited to start the day by running through a tunnel with the teams at 3:30 p.m.
During pre-game at Burt Leventhal Field, the National Anthem will be played and a first pitch will be thrown out.
For spectators, there will be a Blackie’s Hot Dogs truck serving food and ice cream. Children will be able to play games with whiffle balls and soccer balls in the area behind the outfield fence.
Additionally, people will be able to get D-BAT Cheshire gift cards and items from Dr. D’s Tees and Custom Apparel.
“The schools have a half day (on April 28), so we thought that we could make a special day for them and their families,” stated LeFevre. “We are excited about it.”
LeFevre is also excited about a special raffle fundraiser. The owner of C.J. Sparrow, John Miller, was able to procure a signed Detroit Tigers jersey from 1987 Cheshire High School graduate and former Major League Baseball catcher Brad Ausmus.
After playing 18 years in the big leagues, Ausmus became a Special Assistant with the San Diego Padres and then managed the Tigers (2014-17) and Los Angeles Angels (2019). He also worked as a bench coach with the Oakland Athletics.
His signed jersey for the raffle is from when he was the Tigers manager. Ausmus’ parents live locally and often visit C.J. Sparrow.
To purchase raffle tickets for $10, people can attend the CYB event or go to https://chsramsbaseball.fundraiser.today through April 28. The winner will be announced and contacted on April 29.
“Having any type of community involvement is amazing,” said LeFevre. “We are very appreciative of C.J. Sparrow for going out of their way to get the jersey and raffle it off.”
Like CHS baseball, the Rams softball program also volunteers heavily at the youth level. Since Head Coach Kristine Drust and Assistant Jaymie Sommers got involved with CYS in 2018, participation numbers have skyrocketed from 38 to over 180 this year.
Team numbers have grown from four to 19. CYS has also expanded their age levels from 7-13 to 4-13.
“I remember telling Jaymie (Sommers) that we have to do something here or else our (high school) program is jeopardized,” recalled Drust, who volunteers as CYS President.
Drust takes pride in the fact that her staff and high school players know most of the CYS participants by name.
“We have some Tee-Ball players to get to know, but with our girls being coaches this year, we feel great about that,” stated Drust. “It is good to put on a coaches hat and see the game from a different perspective. It is a growing opportunity for all involved.”
This year in CYS, the Cheshire Flames will play their first season with a new name, the Connecticut Charge. The program has teams from 9-and-under through 16-U.
“It is really good for a couple of reasons,” said Connecticut Charge President Jay Miramant. “If we start in travel ball at 9 years old, we can begin the development process for potential softball players. The goal is that the kids stay in the organization throughout their high school years.”
Miramant feels that the rebranding and addition of new coaches has brought a ton of energy with it.
“Coaching takes a lot of energy,” stated Miramant. “We are looking for quality people with high character, who want to give back to the youth and the community.”
For multiple age groups and divisions, CYB/CYS is planning Opening Day festivities. For softball on April 28, there will be a 10-U inter-district game at CHS.
Starting at 8:30 the next morning, there will be a busy slate of activities. Peanut’s Place will send a food truck and Super Sweets Baking is also set to attend the event.
There will be a giveaway of Cheshire softball t-shirts and D-BAT Cheshire swing cards. People will be able to enter to win raffle baskets or get shirts from Dr. D’s Tees and Custom Apparel.
CYS is also planning to have a stations for bows and glitter. Drust said that Cheshire’s Jaymie Clark has been a huge help in organizing activities.
“We’ve tried to add some exciting things for Opening Day,” stated Drust. “Opening Day can be nerve-wracking for new athletes, so we just want them to have fun.”
CYB/CYS teams will play games over the weekend and, on April 30 at Cheshire Park, squads will have pictures taken by Bishop’s Photo.
There will also be skill competitions at the park. Organizers plan to post the winners on social media.
“There are a lot of positive changes coming this year,” said first-year president Heather McGuinness. “We are going to do some things we haven’t done before.
Miramant believes that McGuinness has been a great leader.
“Her desire to see things be successful is contagious for the season ahead,” stated Miramant. “I think it (the organization) helps to breed the community to see the ball parks filled in the spring. We are craving some positive news and outlets for our youth.”
McGuinness is happy that overall numbers are up from last year.
“I’m really excited about starting the season. We have a lot of people who want to be involved from Tee-Ball up through the high school,” said McGuinness.