JLL returns for 58th season

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At its peak, the Johnston Little League – one of Rhode Island’s most storied youth baseball programs – was made up of 350-plus players who were assigned to 26 teams.

Last year, the JLL – which will open its 58th season at famed Kenney Field inside Johnston War Memorial Park in the spring – consisted of only 16 teams and approximately 200 players.

That statistic, people like veteran President Ed Bedrosian, Vice President-Mr. JLL Workhorse John Simao and long-time managers like Robert Civetti, created an alarm of sorts in hoping last year’s low numbers climbs and/or increases during the upcoming 2020 campaign.

Thus, the JLL is looking to expand its total program by creating an instructional league for boys – and girls – age 6 as of August 31, 2020. The league covers players from age 7 to 16 with the age of all respective players determined by his or her age as of Aug. 31 with the cutoff date determined the international program that’s based in Williamsport, Pa.

Moreover, the annual player registration fee will again remain unchanged for the 2020 season and is $110 per player and $165 for a family who might have multiple sign-ups. Registration is currently underway and parents can register on-line at JLLRI.Com.

A league official this week told the Sun Rise those players ages 13-16 should register for the Junior-Senior League Division that last year saw its All-Star team win the Rhode Island state championship and travel to New Jerry for the prestigious Eastern Regional Tournament.

Although Johnston dropped its first game to eventual champion Maryland then bounced back and posted a thrilling 3-2 triumph over the Pennsylvania state titlists.

Players ages 7-12 must register for Little League Baseball. Those players not already on a JLL Major League team must attend a tryout to be drafted into the Major League Division. Those not drafted would participate in the AAA Division.

While the 2020 season holds high promise for Johnston children who want to play t he national pastime, the upcoming campaign will also include a continuation of the JLL again utilizing one of its most treasured resources, a.k.a. players receiving instruction from famed and former Montreal Expos player and Johnston native John Mello.

Mello, who is a Johnston native and a member the JHS Athletic Hall of Fame, is the Director of the Rhode Island Baseball Institute that’s based in Warwick and was founded by Dave Stenhouse, former Washington Senators pitcher and his son Dave Jr. who played for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“John (Mello) has provided some professional instruction to all JLL participants,” Civetti, who is closing in on a 40-year milestone with the league, offered: “Our league covered the cost for each team to get some workouts from the RIBI pros and players had an opportunity to receive further training at discounted rates dependent on the number of teammates who wanted additional training.”

Civetti, who was once an assistant coach when his father coaches the Orioles and has been in the JLL for 39 years and counting, went on: “To be honest I’m not quite sure how Coach Mello does it. He treats every player the same and it doesn’t matter where you are an All-State player or a young athlete starting out; he’s even demanding on the accomplished athlete but you will never see him put a player down while going through his instruction. He has the patience of an angel when it comes to young girls land boys trying to learn the game of baseball.”

Both Bedrosian and Simao will attest that “Coach Mello has always been a strong supporter of youth baseball not only in Johnston where he grew up but throughout the state. He is always willing to do whatever he can to help our youth develop into strong players.”

Mello, JLL officials like Civetti will tell you, “is a lot like out own John Simao, he can’t do enough to ensure the success of all out sponsors, players, team and volunteers.”

Simao, in face, wound up the 2019 season traveling to Fenway Park in Boston where he was honored by the Boston Red Sox Foundation as “Volunteer of the Year” in Rhode Island. He was recognized in pregame ceremonies in September and received a personalized Sox jersey, four game tickets and a $500 donation for the JLL from the Sox Foundation.

Simao has been a valued JLL volunteer for upwards of 15 years, the last 10 of which he has served as vice president.

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