History of Beth-Wood (formerly WFBL)

During the winter of 1972 (January / February), a group of concerned Woodbridge fathers got together at the home of Tony Malafronte to consider replacing the existing B-W (Bethany / Woodbridge) League at that time with a more competitive league of their own.  The existing BW League had children up to the age of 10 playing softball and these fathers truly felt that these kids could be much better prepared for Junior High and High School Baseball by playing hardball, not softball.  Those fathers present at this meeting were Tony Malafronte, Dave Ryan Sr., Joe Ciaburri, Stan Gedansky, Andy Esposito, Dolph Luciani, Dr. Mark DeNegre, Dave Rosenthal, Bob Laemel, Dom Proto, Herb Savitt, George Krall, George Kolligian, Frank Pizzuti, John Carroll, Dr. Barry Josephs, Bernie Buteau and Vinnie Romei. 

During the meeting, it was unanimously decided to go forward with their League, thus founding the Woodbridge Fathers Baseball League.  As there were only a few months remaining before the start of the season, they had a tremendous amount of work to do to become organized, hold Registration, order uniforms / equipment, locate Team Sponsors, recruit Coaches, etc.   What was amazing to all those fathers was how quickly their plan came together, through hard work and total cooperation.  Tony Malafronte was elected as the WFBL’s 1st President, Dr. Mark DeNegre was the first Treasurer, Dolph Luciani went out and gathered up the required Team Sponsors and Herb Savitt quickly drew up the WFBL’s By-Laws and handled the legal matters for the League. 

The WFBL opened that year successfully, playing at (3) fields at Center, (2) fields at West River, Amity High School field and (1) field at Clark off Newton Road (where a home is now located).  The League consisted of approximately 200 Players between the ages of 8 – 15, made up of 15 Teams or so.  This inaugural season lasted into August, with (2) half-seasons and a playoff between the division winners of each half season.  At the time, there was no Tee Ball or Softball available, although some girls did participate in the League.  Back then, the fathers pitched to the 8 & 9 year olds, which now relates to what we do with our 7 & 8 year olds in our Rookies Division.       

Also, not to be forgotten, are the efforts of the wives of the founding fathers (WFBL Auxiliary) who cooked, baked and ran concessions for the League.  Dolores Malafronte, Rita Gedansky, Rita DeNegre, Marilyn Laemel among others truly made a positive impact and made the games that much more special by serving hot dogs, hamburgers and soft drinks.

 From that initial season on, the WFBL continued to prosper and grow for many years.  In 1986, under the presidency of Paul Musco and through the vision of Walt Cichocki, the WFBL expanded to include Tee Ball, which encompassed both boys and girls between the ages of 5 – 7.  This League Division was established to help develop the skills of the younger Players and teach them the knowledge / rules of the game, so by the time they were drafted up into the Minors or Majors, they were adequately prepared.  This continues to be extremely popular among the youngsters today.

The following year, in 1987, the WFBL expanded by adding Girls Softball to its program.  Harry Moore was the initial driving force behind the establishment of our Softball program and helped pave the way for our present BethWood Softball Little League that is now affiliated with Little League International.

 In 1988, under the leadership of Walt Cichocki, the WFBL expanded once again to include an Intermediate or Rookies League Division, which was a step in-between Tee Ball and Minors where the fathers pitched and allowed the players a chance to experience “live” pitching before facing it in the Minors.

 In 2003, the Girls Softball program, not being able to find competition in the local area, spun out of the WFBL and joined Little League.  They became the BethWood Softball Little League and participate against Towns such as Orange, Milford and West Haven, to name a few.  This has given them a wonderful opportunity to expand their League that will enrich competition and spurn new growth for them.  We wish them much success!!

 Also, special thanks are to be given to the Bethany Summer League (BSL) and their involvement with the WFBL throughout all these years.  This opportunity has allowed Players from both Woodbridge and Bethany to play together on the same Team and / or against each other, which has established many lasting friendships that extend on through High School.  

Under the leadership of Dwight Rowland and his Boards, the WFBL has given back so much to the Woodbridge community by making our fields not only better to play on but more importantly much safer.  With League generated funds, we have replaced backstops at the West River and Center Road fields, including safety fencing and fenced in dugouts.  We reclaimed West River Field #1, which used to be the old 90’ diamond and turned it into a beautiful 60’ diamond, reconstructing the entire infield, back in the early ‘90’s.  We were instrumental in constructing the permanent dugouts and home run fencing up at the two {2} Acorn Hill ballfields in 1996 ; we have heard from many visiting Towns that this is one of the nicest complexes in the State.  In 2003 / 2004, we also installed 2 fully – enclosed Batting Cages at the Acorn Hill ball field site, complete with pitching machines and a pre-built storage shed to house our equipment. 

 In 2005, the WFBL (in conjunction with the Town of Woodbridge) replaced the deteriorating, unsafe backstops and fencing at both Beecher Road School ballfields to make them safer for our children to play on.  In 2006, the WFBL constructed Scorekeepers / Press booths at both of its Acorn Hill Ballfields.

In 2006, the WFBL formed the WFBL Auxiliary, which is comprised of many talented women who will help supplement and provide much support to the every day operations of the WFBL.  These will include fund raising efforts (marketing of WFBL clothing / merchandise, Ads for our annual Program Book, Field Signs at Acorn Hill), assisting at Opening Day (they plan to organize a booth with a radar gun) plus organizing / scheduling Team Photos for the League.  In 2007, the WFBL Auxiliary held its first Auction that proved to be extremely successful ; as a result of the monies raised, the WFBLinstalled electronic Scoreboards at both their Acorn Hill Ballfields in the Spring of 2008.     

Also in 2006, predicated on a directive from Babe Ruth League Headquarters, the WFBLincorporated a 4-year old Tee Ball Instructional Division.  In an effort to give these 4’s a great head start in learning the game of baseball (combined with a lot of fun), we will continue to plan to hire a professional Coach to work not only with the 4’s but also our Coaches.  This has proved to be very successful and will be continued in years to come … 

In 2009, we formed our new League : Beth – Wood Baseball League.  The WFBL and BSL joined forces in December, 2008 to form this new organization.  It is essentially business as usual with no major changes anticipated and this will not only help us streamline the operation of this League but should make us stronger in the long run in the years to come.  We are and continue to be very excited to be working together as a single organization !!

Also in 2009, another important step that was taken with Cal Ripken is that our Majors program (Players whose ages are 11 & 12) are now participating on a 50’ / 70’ Baseball field – both fields up at Acorn Hill were converted into combination 46’ / 60’ and 50’ / 70’ diamonds as well as West River Field # 1.  This gives those Players an excellent opportunity to learn pick offs, leading off bases, etc. which is a great stepping stone when they move up to play on a 90’ diamond when become 13’s into Babe Ruth Prep.   

In 2010, we decided to merge the Rookie Players (ages 7 & 8) from both the Towns of Bethany and Woodbridge onto the same Teams – we will be holding mandatory screenings for all Players so the Coaches can carefully evaluate their talent.  Teams are then drafted in early March to form Teams with equal talent, as they are in both the Minors and Majors Divisions.

In 2010, the Board instituted a new Policy to allow 8 and 10 – year olds an opportunity to voluntarily try – out for the Minors and Majors Divisions respectively.  This hereby allowed those Players an opportunity to play up but in no way guaranteed a spot unless the Coaches were convinced, solely predicated on their individual skill level, they were ready for the move up.

In 2011, after much discussion, we have decided that all Players who participate in our Majors Division will be required to use Wood Bats during Regular Season play in lieu of metal or composite bats ; in All Star play, Players will then be allowed to use metal bats.  There has been much written about the safety concerns of metal / composite bats and the League has taken a proactive step in trying to reduce any serious injuries from occurring by adopting this policy.  It proved to be a huge success in 2011 and is still current policy as of today.   

In 2011, Beth – Wood Baseball was able to re-obtain the Charter from Babe Ruth Headquarters for Amity Babe Ruth that encompasses Players between the ages of 13 – 18.  Steve Ciardiello served as Chair of ABR and did a fabulous job getting many Players to return to ABR after an absence.  We expect this trend to continue as we re-build this very important program.    

In 2011, after more than 25 years of searching for a suitable location to construct a 90’ Baseball Field, the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen has finally designated the Alegi Property off of Pease Rood as the site for this field.  Woodbridge does not have their own 90’ diamond and this field ultimately will help us expand the growth of the Babe Ruth program and keep our Players local in lieu of leaving to play in AAU programs.  Beth – Wood has started an aggressive fundraising campaign as we must raise all monies not only for the construction of this field but the engineering / design as well.  We could use the help of the entire community in making this “Field of Dreams” as reality for our kids and generations to come to play on.  If you would like to become involved and can offer some expertise to help us, please contact one of our Board Members at your convenience …  

In 2012, Beth – Wood Baseball celebrated its 40th Anniversary since our founding back in 1972.  The League’s Opening Day Ceremonies were held on April 28, 2012 on the Woodbridge Town Green with hundreds in attendance – every year this is one of the largest events held in the Town of Woodbridge, with numerous community groups participating (Woodbridge Fire Department, Garden Club, Republican and Democratic Town Committees, Boy Scouts, New Britain Rock Cats organization, Amity High School, among others).  Not only did we celebrate our Anniversary, we also celebrated the lives of three (3) special individuals who were part of this League but tragically passed away during 2012 :

PFC Eric D. Soufrine: a tree was planted at Acorn Hill along with a plaque to honor Eric’s memory for giving his life while serving in the US Army in Afghanistan on June 14, 2011 defending the freedoms and liberties that we as Americans enjoy to this day.  Eric was a past Player and Umpire in the WFBL for many years

 Eva Ryan Block: an annual Scholarship will be presented by BethWood Girls Softball in Eva’s memory, who perished in a fire on January 21, 2012 while attending College.  Eva was a past Player in the WFBL for many years

 WFBL Past President Steve Fiore: Steve was Past President of the WFBL from 1982 – 1983, who passed away in 2011 and a banner sign honoring Steve was presented to his wife Barbara, which is now hung at our Acorn Hill complex.  Many of the Past Presidents of the WFBL / BSL were present at this Ceremony to help celebrate Steve’s life as well as the League 40th Anniversary

 Beth – Wood Baseball also launched a new Web Site in 2012 that made our site much more user friendly and allows us to send announcements / game cancellations much easier to all those participating in the League.  We offered on – line Registration for the first time that made it easier for parents to register their children from the comfort of your home.  We will also have links so you may access Amity Babe Ruth, automated Schedules and BethWood Girls Softball, among many others --       

 Beth – Wood Baseball / Amity Babe Ruth {ABR} reached an agreement with the Amity High School Baseball Coaching staff to provide professional Coaches for ABR for the 2013 Season.  Also during 2013 Orange re-joined Amity BR and 4 Teams with Players from all 3 Towns were formed.  This program included the following components :

  • Winter Work Outs
  • Spring Recreational Teams
  • Summer All Star play
  • Guidance for development of Players
  • Professional Coach program at reasonable pricing

 We continue to be excited about this partnership and strive to improve this program that our Babe Ruth Players should thrive in.  Visit their web site at www.amitybaberuth.com -- 

Sadly, right before Opening Day in April, 2013, we lost a true friend and supporter of Beth – Wood Baseball Woodbridge First Selectman Edward Maum SheehyOpening Day ceremonies were understandably cancelled but a closing ceremony was held in June at the conclusion of our regular Spring season, when the League honored Ed’s memory and presented Ed’s wife Ellie and his family with a banner to honor Ed’s memory that was hung at our Acorn Hill complex.  All four (4) of Ed’s & Ellie’s children (sons & daughter) participated in the League throughout the years in the WFBL.  Ed surely will be missed by all of us !!

In 2015 Beth-Wood changed its web site and currently operates our League web presence and live calendaring system using TeamSnap (web site is still www.bethwoodbaseball.com).  TeamSnap is a league management portal that allows the Beth-Wood to effectively communicate with parents in real time, communicating schedule and other important information.  Our increased use of technology increases the ease with which families can manage their relationship with the League and ultimately creates a better experience.  Features such as calendar subscription on mobile devices, Team and League message boards, Coach messaging via SMS, rainouts / game cancellations, make – up games and email and availability postings are just some of the features TeamSnap offers.

 In 2016, enrollment in Beth – Wood grew by approximately 40 additional Players who registered, allowing us to add four (4) new Teams in the League (including many from the Westville area), which was great to see and are confident this growth will continue the next few years as well.  We also upgraded & refurbished our electronic Scoreboards at Acorn Hill, as they were starting to break down, with new & brighter LED digits that enhances their viewing (even in bright sunlight).   

 In 2017, Beth – Wood celebrated its 45th Anniversary with a special Open Day Ceremony in which we, along with our local State Representatives / Senator and local officials, honored the following :

Numerous past Presidents of our League since its founding back in 1972

Past State Senator Joe Crisco (who was a tremendous assist to our League and obtained funding for the grant that enabled us to construct our current Acorn Hill complex)

Army Veteran SPC Sean Pesce (who was wounded / left paralyzed during a fire fight in Afghanistan in 2012) – Sean was made an honorary member of our Board of Directors for his service to our country

In 2017, our Amity Babe Ruth All Star Teams captured their respective District championships in the 13U, 14U & 15U Divisions – this is the first time we have ever swept Districts all (3) Divisions.  In 2018, our Amity BR Teams captured their respective District championships in the 13U & 15U Divisions.  Great accomplishment and is a testament to the continued growth of this program !!

 In 2019, our 10-year old District All Star Team captured the Cal Ripken District 3 Tournament hosted by Beth – Wood in June and went on to represent us by participating in the Cal Ripken 10-year old State Tournament that was hosted by Milford.  The Team did very well – note this is the first time in numerous years that one of our All Star Teams has captured a District Tournament and Beth – Woodwill be installing a Banner to recognize this Team at our Acorn Hill facility.

 2020 was definitely a year of change, as our lives were forever transformed with the insurgence of the COVID-19 virus.  The Spring season was immediately cancelled and the B - W Board decided not to play ball during the summer months as well.  With the specific Guidelines issued by both the State of CT and Babe Ruth League, Beth – Wood did organize a Fall Ball season as we all felt it was very important to let the children play this great game of baseball, especially when they did not have the opportunity to do so until then. 

 2020 Fall Ball proved to be very successful (with 3 Majors Teams, 2 Minors Teams, 2 Rookies Teams and many young Tee Ballers) as we were coming out of the pandemic and everyone who participated carefully abided by the specific COVID Guidelines that were in place --        

 In the Spring of 2021, we continued to transition from COVID and began getting back to our normal numbers that we usually see every Spring, with about 220 Players participating.  Our 12U All Star District Team came in as Runner-up in the 12’s District Tournament, hosted by Beth – Wood in June, and then competed in the 12’s State Tournament -- this Team went on to capture the 12U CT Youth Baseball League (YBL) Summer Championship at the end of July. 

 In 2022 we celebrated our 50th Anniversary as a League since our forming back in 1972 with a wonderful celebration during our Opening Day Ceremonies that were help on April 30th.  Many of our League Founders and Past Presidents were in attendance to help us share this special occasion.  In addition, we are pleased to report that our registration numbers were up a bit from 2021 and we were able to add a few Teams, which was great to see.

We also replaced the Scoreboards at both of our Acorn Hill fields – the original scoreboards had essentially reached their limitation and were not operating properly.  These new units should last us another 15 years or so.

In 2023, our 12U District All Star Team captured the District 2 Championship without losing a game – the Districts were hosted by Beth – Wood at Acorn Hill.  This is the first time in many years one of our Teams has achieved this feat.  This Team then went on to complete in the 12U Cal Ripken State Tournament, hosted by West Hartford – after losing an early round game, they stormed back and reached the Finals, only to lose to the eventual champions of West Hartford.  They also completed in the CTYBL Summer League when they captured the 12U Championship – overall it truly was a remarkable summer for this Team !!

Combined overall, we have a little over 300 children who participate in the Beth – Wood Baseball,Amity Babe Ruth and Amity Girls Softball Little League programs between the ages of 4 – 15, approximately 3 times the size of the original League. 

As we enter 2024, in which we will be celebrating our 52nd year of providing an excellent baseball recreation program for the children within our communities, we are excited and extremely pleased to experience how strong our program continues to be since our inception back in 1972.  Beth – Wood Baseball is well respected within the Babe Ruth League community here in State of CT and we are extremely proud of that reputation !!

With the continuing positive support not only from the Towns of Woodbridge and Bethany but also from their respective communities, we remain extremely confident Beth – Wood Baseball will continue to prosper and grow for many years to come.