When Arthur Gritmacker thinks of the Alden-Hebron Baseball/Softball League, he thinks of small-town pride, and he hopes the children involved look back at their time on the league and think the same thing.
A coach for the past eight years, Gritmacker started when his now-13-year-old daughter played T-ball. While his daughter’s activity preference eventually switched from T-ball to cheerleading, Gritmacker continued coaching as his now-10-year-old son has continued in the program.
The coaching has evolved in the past two or three years into involvement on the league’s board, where Gritmacker has taken on some of the administrative responsibilities. He emphasized his small role and the team effort it takes to run the program, which facilitates about 40 children in four age divisions, but board member Vicki Nielsen said Gritmacker’s dedication to the league has stood out to her in the past couple of years.
“He’s really made improvements to everything,” Nielsen said. “Everything from the sign-up sheets that are put out to getting communication out to parents and families, all while being a coach.”
Nielsen wasn’t surprised Gritmacker downplayed his role, saying he’s adamant the program runs on a collaborative basis and makes people feel welcome to be part of the process.
Gritmacker is one of four or five people who consistently are involved in the program. He said his stepping into a larger role a couple years ago was simple; it just looked like they could use an extra hand.
But Gritmacker said his involvement in the league isn’t necessarily a job. For him, it’s a pastime.
“This was my Little League team growing up,” Gritmacker said, adding that it’s changed dramatically since he was a boy; he never traveled for games as the league does now, for instance, he said.
The idea and the goals remain the same, though. In a society where youth are exposed to ugliness earlier in life, Gritmacker cited the importance of extracurricular activities such as sports for children to engage in.
“I think it keeps them active, teaches them teamwork, and it makes them healthier,” he said.
Plus, Gritmacker added, there’s nothing like watching baseball develop into a hobby, and then a passion for the children.
“Why do I love it? I mean seeing that moment of joy when they get their first hit or when they catch a fly ball,” Gritmacker said. “It’s that moment you watch them as they really truly impress themselves.”
During the season, Gritmacker spends six to seven hours a week working on league-related duties, whether it’s ordering uniforms and trophies, setting up fundraising events or planning the end-of-year celebration for the children in the league. This volunteer work is in addition to his day job as a professional surveyor at Woodstock-based Vanderstappen Inc.
If you ask him, Gritmacker will say things such as, “There are plenty of people who do a whole lot more than a baseball coach does.”
But Nielsen was quick to reiterate the significance of Gritmacker’s commitment to his team and the league.
“He is truly a give-back kind of guy,” she said. “He’s certainly passionate about the community, but you can see a stronger passion for making sure the kids are getting what they need to enjoy the league.”
If he was going to impress anything upon the young baseballers and on the community, Gritmacker said he’d like to see the league become a definitive point of hometown pride.
“As a small community, growing up, I saw the more vocal ones were the most negative, and it’s just nice to see kids succeed at a sport, or at anything,” Gritmacker said. “They learned these things in their town, and we really do have an excellent little community.”