By Jeff Pexton
Whitesboro NY – More and more youth baseball players are taking advantage of Upstate New York’s beautiful early Autumn weather to hone their baseball skills. The Accelerate Sports Intermediate Fall League is one of them, with some important differences.
“We give the kids a few weeks off following a busy Spring / Summer of baseball, let them get back to the most important thing (their school work) then we go full bore with an eight week program on Saturdays and Sundays” Accelerate’s Director of Baseball, J.T. LaFountain, told The Midyork Sports Report on Saturday.
This afternoon at the Whitestown Little League Park, two of the five teams in the league, the Sauquoit Reds and Oriskany, took to the field for week three of the fall season. Camden, Accelerate Selects and Whitestown round out the league, which hosts players 10 to 13 years old. The league is played with a 50 ft. pitching mound distance and 70 ft. base paths, with leading and stealing.
“I love playing in the fall, it gives me a chance to extend my baseball even longer” Oriskany pitcher and shortstop Steven Armstrong told Mid York Sports Report, adding “hitting is my favorite part of baseball, which is my favorite sport”. Armstrong, a big Seattle Mariners fan, is the son of Franca and Steve Armstrong, of Oriskany.
The league also means a lot to Ethan Burrows, a 13 year old multi sport athlete, who also ran the Hermann Invitational Cross Country Meet Saturday morning for the Oriskany Redskins Modified Team. “Baseball is definitely my favorite sport” the infielder/pitcher said, adding “most of us play together all season, so this helps us stay sharp after the regular season ends”. Ethan, the son of Fred and Jeannine Burrows of Oriskany, is a dyed in the wool Yankees fan and was sad to see his favorite player, Derek Jeter, retire after last season.
The Sauquoit Reds are a younger group of kids, playing “up” in age level, in an effort to gain some important exposure to better pitching in the off season. One of those youngsters was Shawn Lawlor, a 10 year old player who roots for the L.A. Dodgers. Lawlor, a shortstop and first baseman, idolizes former Dodgers great Maury Wills, who finished his career in 1966. “I have learned a lot about him and I think he was great” Lawlor explained. Pretty cool Shawn!
For Joseph Burline, another 10 year old from Sauquoit, baseball is important to him, as a Yankees fan, but he is just passing the time until Ski season starts. “Skiing is my favorite sport, but playing and learning more baseball in the Fall is really fun too” Burline said.
Another Sauquoit Red, Peter Cresci, a 10 year old Mets fan, playing “extra” baseball is fun and the competition is what makes it great. “It’s fun to play kids from other towns and even though we lost our first two games, we’re getting better, I know we are”.
Having kids “get better” at baseball is what this league is all about and the kids participating would be hard pressed to find a better baseball instructor than J.T. LaFountain. After finishing his career at Proctor High School, LaFountain had a stellar career for the NCAA Division I University of Louisville Cardinals, where he played 5 different positions, before being drafted by the Colorado Rockies as a switch hitting catcher in 2004.
After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science from Louisville, LaFountain signed with the New York Yankees in 2005. J.T. would make it all the way to the “AA” Trenton Thunder in the Yankees organization before retiring due to injuries.
J.T. LaFountain was also recently named Director of Scouting for New York State for the “Prep Baseball Report”, a leading national baseball recruitment publication, dedicated to locating and placing baseball players.
LaFountain’s education and professional experience are at work everyday at Accelerate Sports Complex, alongside his wife and Accelerate General Manager Audrey, whom he met at Louisville. Audrey LaFountain was a Division I Softball Player at Louisville, eventually playing professionally, before joining Accelerate.
“Rest and recovery are huge parts of our philosophy” LaFountain said when he was asked about the length of the baseball season for kids. He went on to explain that after taking several weeks to rest and just have some fun before school resumes, the players in the Accelerate Fall Baseball League play only on weekends and pitching is very closely monitored. “Basically this is a chance for kids to develop at their own pace, with no pressure and have fun away from their regular season games”.
Another nice attribute for the teams in the Accelerate League is that if it rains (or worse) the games are simply moved inside the massive Accelerate Sports Complex, on Judd Road in Whitestown. “That’s definitely a plus” LaFountain said.
For more information on this, or any other program at Accelerate, visit their website at www.accelerate-sports.com or call 315-507-5560 for more information. Registration for next years Fall League will commence in January.
We’d like to thank everyone involved with the league for having us over today! Best of luck with this relatively new concept in baseball training. It looks like its off to a great start!