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SE Queens little leaguers vie to be champions

For only the second time in more than 40 years the Cambria Heights Little League held its championship weekend Saturday as league teams battled for the right to be called champions.

The Little League, started in 1957, became the Cambria Heights - Laurelton Little League last year after the president of the Laurelton Little League stepped down. With nobody in the community wanting to take over for him, the league ceased to exist.

“Well, the combining of the leagues came about five years ago when I suggested a merger of the leagues,” said John Hopkins, president of the league and a volunteer for 16 years. “The Little Leagues in southeast Queens neighborhoods are balkanized and we would be stronger as a group.”

Hopkins said he knew the Laurelton League was struggling and he spoke with its president about merging the leagues, but the latter was not amenable to the proposition. Then last year, he said, the president stepped down and nobody wanted to take over, so the Cambria Heights league decided to absorb the Laurelton league. .

“Some of the kids wouldn’t have played at all,” Hopkins said. “The problem now is outreach into Laurelton to attract more kids.”

Al Taylor, vice president of the Cambria Heights Little League and a volunteer for 22 years, said there were a lot of children in the area who wanted to play ball and could not when the league shut down.

Merging the leagues, he said, make the league more competitive, adds coaches and bring in more volunteers to help with the different aspects of running the league. Taylor said the lack of volunteers is one of the leagues main problems.

Little League baseball is played across the United States from late April to late June and culminates with the Little League World Series during the summer. The league has five divisions for children from 5 to 16. To run a league there has to be a minimum of four teams and a maximum of 10 in each of the divisions.

Besides competing on the baseball diamond, the children learn many life lessons by participating in Little League.

“They learn, I feel, things they will need later in life,” Hopkins said. “The learn to work together, strive for the same goal, contribute what you can for the greater good of the team and rules. These are things you need on a job as adults.”

The children also learn what it means to be responsible, he said. They have to get to the games on time, take care of their uniforms and make sure the outfits are clean for all of the games.

The league also gives the children the opportunity to make friends, Hopkins said, and some become friends for life. Parents get to meet their neighbors in the community, and he has even seen romances and business develop.

“I believe it is a fun thing for them being out there with the community,” Taylor said. “It gives you an identity in the community. Playing and participating in the league leaves a pleasant memory as you grow up. You always remember the good things.”

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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