They don’t hit, run, or pitch, but a score of Northeastern University students play an important role in the Mission Hill Little League program, coaching and mentoring dozens of budding ballplayers.
“Northeastern students are a major part of our program,” said league president Adabel Romero, noting that at least one student is assigned to coach each team.
“They work very well with the kids and keep them focused on the game,” added Romero, whose 12-year-old son, Anthony, plays shortstop.
The majority of volunteers are brothers in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, which formed a partnership with the little league program eight years ago.
Nick Bartolone, the fraternity’s outgoing president, is one of three Northeastern students who coach the Cubs, which won last year’s league championship.
He noted a stark transformation in the behavior of the little leaguers between the beginning and end of last season. “At the start of the year, some of the players showed up late and didn’t always play nice,” he explained. But as the season wore on, he said, “they came together as a team and learned how to work cohesively.”
Brett Kelly, another fraternity member who coaches the Cubs, agreed with Bartolone’s assessment of the young ballplayers, saying, “Their faces light up once they get a hit or get an out.”
Working as a summer camp councilor taught Kelly a thing or two about mentoring his little leaguers. “You get to know a lot about each player’s life,” he explained, “and you approach each one with a different style in order to help him improve both on and off the field.”
Most games are played at Killilea Field on Mission Hill’s McLaughlin Playground. Northeastern’s Office of City and Community Affairs donated $20,000 to the neighborhood last year to install a drainage system in the field, which was put in place shortly before Opening Day on April 20.
“It’s working great,” Romero said. “It rained the night before Opening Day, and there were no puddles next to home plate. Before the drainage system was installed, we had to pump the water out by hand and reschedule a lot of games.”