The Northside Baseball and Softball Association (NBSA) in Brighton Heights’ season starts this March, and as the spring nears, the organization is gearing up for an exciting year with even more opportunities for their youth players.
Offering more teams than ever ranging from tee ball to higher skill levels, the NBSA accepts players from ages 4 to 18 and groups them into teams that play in and around the city against other local programs. Their goal is simple: get the kids of the Northside in touch with the great American game, and get families outdoors with their neighbors during the warmer months.
With plans to expand the program including an in-house, non-competitive league that plays once a week at home in the Northside, NBSA Board President Joseph Ehman hopes to encourage involvement without intense competition.
“Some of the best memories I had growing up were playing baseball in my community,” he said.
When his own kids began to play Little League, their own blossoming friendships within their ball teams inspired their father to become involved in the NBSA so that others can have the same unique bonding experiences. Ehman hopes that the in-house league will draw attendees.
“So many kids are playing travel baseball now… the neighborhood leagues are struggling,” he said, referencing a staggering national decrease in Little League participation that has been steadily building since the end of the 1990s.
According to Front Office Sports, national involvement in Little League has sunk by 3% each year since the turn of the century, and increasingly families are engaging with baseball through prohibitively expensive travel baseball programs which emphasize the competitive and careerist side of youth sports.
In an article for The New Yorker, Nicholas Dawidoff wrote, “Youth sports is a booming business that brings in fifteen billion dollars per year. For many parents, the financial and time commitments are transactional, investments in the grail of a college athletic scholarship or, who knows, maybe even a career in Houston or Chicago with the real Astros or White Sox.”
The NBSA hopes to challenge that mentality, finding value in the process of bringing kids together on neighborhood facilities for the purpose of bonding with their peers.
“It’s just really beautiful,” Ehman says, “to get the kids together .”
NBSA’s games run from the beginning of April until July, and are played in large part at the Jack Stack complex, where six fields hold games all summer long. Playing against programs like the Southwest Pittsburgh Baseball League and the Pirates’ RBI Program, the teams all get chances at competition across the city, getting them engaged with kids from other neighborhoods and encouraging the broader youth of Pittsburgh into camaraderie through sports.
Outreach for the season has started and QR codes for registration can be found around the neighborhood, and a sign-up link is available on their website at http://bhaabaseball.org/. n