Our League History

The Early Years
Owego Little League was started in 1952 by Ray Manchester (our first Owego Little League President), Len Porter, Clarence Reynolds, Robert Kuhns, Leonard Schmidt, Stan Morey, Jim Osburn, Paul Blow, Robert Babcock, Hubert Smith, Sam Deeb, and Fred Thomas to provide organized, supervised baseball activities to the boys of Owego. In the first season, there were four teams of 15 boys each. Sponsors were The Talcott Street PTA, Endicott-Johnson and combined sponsorships of the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs (Ki-Ro) and Conti Jewelers and Lynn's Drug Store (Conti-Lynn.) The league played it's games on McMaster Street on land owned by Endicott-Johnson Corporation, and dedicated the field to Nick Raftis, an Owego resident, professional baseball player and a man dedicated to Owego Little League and youth baseball.

In 1965, under the supervision of Bill Warner, a new clubhouse building was built at the McMaster Street site. In 1977, this building was moved to Hyde Park where it now serves as a storage shed.

Hyde Park
As the participation grew, we were no longer able to survive with the limited space at the E-J site. The Owego Little League playing complex on George Street had its beginnings in 1965 when Owego Little League purchased an option on the land now occupied by Raftis and Cheresnowsky fields from Mr. and Mrs. Theron Lewis. During the same period, the village sold land to Stackmore, and according to press reports, "agreed to earmark the money from the sale of the land to Stackmore for the purchase of a permanent site for a ball park." Based on this commitment, the league voted on February 8, 1966 to sign over the land option to the village for "the express purpose of a park for the Owego Little League". The collaboration resulted in the purchase of the land as a village park for use by Owego Little League. The new field was constructed and play began at the new park in 1967. The Nick Raftis field on McMaster Street was also used.

In 1968, Kent "Red" Compton built, with volunteer labor, the field house at Hyde Park that now bears his name.

In 1969, a second field was constructed. With two fields on George Street, and the continued use of Raftis Field, three fields were now in use. In 1978, this second field was dedicated to George Cheresnowsky, an eight year Owego Little League president and the District 7 administrator from 1981-2000. In 2001, Marguerite Cheresnowsky’s name was added, in memory, and in recognition of her life-long service.

The third field at Hyde Park was built in 1973. In 1982, this field was dedicated to Jim Beauter, who had been a manager, director and league president in his many years of service to the league.

The fourth field at Hyde Park was built in 1975. With the completion of this field, play on McMaster street came to an end, and what was simply "Field 1" at Hyde Park became the new Nick Raftis Memorial Field.

In 1986, the fourth field was dedicated to Dick Franz, who has been a dedicated Little League volunteer since its early days.

The Hyde Estate donated funds to the league in 1984 to rebuild and sod all four infields, and again in 1990 for construction of the batting cage. The estate has donated money every year with the funds going to capital projects such as fencing, the pitching machine and field upgrades.

Electric scoreboards were added to Raftis and Cheresnowsky fields. The Owego McDonalds, owned by Clyde and Mabel Stoltz, donated the first board in 1982, followed by Richard's Funeral Home (Mr. and Mrs. Ron Lewis) in 1985.

The Owego Rotary Club donated funds to the league in 1986 to construct new dugouts as the old ones had reached the end of their lives. An original team sponsor, Rotary has always been supportive of the league, as have many of its individual members, who sponsor teams through their businesses.

The Mildred Faulkner-Truman Foundation provided the league with funding in 1987 to add on to the field house when we outgrew the original, and also in 1991 for the purchase of the tractor used to maintain the park. The Faulkner-Truman Estate has been a consistent supporter of the league.

In 1988, the league incorporated the girls softball program, starting with five teams. This segment has grown significantly and in 1992 was split into major and minor divisions.

In 1990, as the league grew and the need for funds increased, the league became a member of the Tioga United Way.

In 1992, the O-A school district granted permission to the league to play its Tee Ball games on their field. The Owego PBA donated funds to the league to fix up the field. With this addition, we were now able to play more Tee Ball games, which has long been desired by the organization, while freeing up time on the regular fields to handle the growth in the rest of the league.

Also in 1992, community merchants donated the new Owego Merchants Building. This building allowed the consolidation of the grounds keeping equipment, expansion of the concession stand, and more room in the field house for game equipment. It also meant that there was no longer a need to actively use the Warner Building, eliminating the safety hazard inherent in having to cross the roadway.

In 1994, Senior League Softball was added for girls 13-15, playing their games on the OFA JV field adjacent to Jim Beauter Field. In 1995, inter-league play with the other senior girls programs was instituted. In 1996, the Senior Softball program was placed under the auspices of ASA in order to provide additional opportunities for the players, and to better match the age groups of other softball programs in the area. The age bracket for ASA Senior Softball was changed to 13-16 years of age. In 1998, the entire softball program was transferred to ASA to facilitate the ability for inter-league play and to better prepare participants for other softball programs in the area. The Senior Softball program was dissolved in 2001 as girls interested in playing at that age level transferred to travel softball.

For years, E.E. Root & Sons allowed the league to use its property adjacent to Hyde Park for parking. Faced with the potential sale of this property, the League purchased it in 1996. This ensures that the league will have the capability of expanding the physical layout without restricting parking and insures that we will continue to serve the youth of Owego as we have in the past. The property was purchased with grants from the Fannie C. Hyde Estate, and the Mildred Faulkner-Truman Foundation, and with funds from the league. This property was then donated to the Village of Owego in exchange for an agreement that Owego Little League has the right to control the park and its usage. This formalizes the understanding we have operated under with the Village since the original acquisition of the park.

In 1998 the league approved the construction of a new Tee-Ball field in the open area adjacent to Dick Franz Field.

The year 2000 brought the addition of the Ben Weitsman Memorial Pavilion near the concession area. Ben Weitsman was the founder of the Owego Boys Club and a long time supporter of youth in Owego.

In 2001, the first base dugout on Raftis Field was dedicated, in memory, to Don Downey, former manager, umpire, and league president.

Also in 2001, the new parking lot (the former EE Root & Sons site) was paved thanks to a grant from the John Cooper Family Foundation.

And also in 2001, the Tee-Hitting Cage was dedicated, in memory, to Ben Johns, a Little Leaguer who left us way too soon.

2002 brought with it the completion of the fencing for the Tee-Ball field and replacement fencing on Cheresnowsky field again due to the generosity of the John Cooper Family Foundation.

2002 marked the transfer of the Teener program from the Boys Club to our league. The John Cooper Family Foundation granted funds to obtain new uniforms and equipment for this program in 2003.

Jim Raftis donated a wireless microphone system in 2002. This allows much more freedom using the PA system for on field events.

2003 saw (finally) the paving of the old parking lot, due to the generosity of J.O.C. Construction, Johnson’s Pools and Spas and the Town and Village of Owego who donated time, equipment and supplies to make it possible.

2003 also marked the passing of Dick Horton, who had been the groundskeeper at the park “forever.” In his memory, the league established the “Dick Horton I Do It For the Kids” Volunteer award, and named Dick Franz and Ken Winters as its first recipients. In keeping the tradition, Dick Horton’s son Dave has stepped in as the new groundskeeper.

In 2004, the fencing was replaced on Beauter field.

In 2006, working with the Owego-Apalachin School District and using funds donated to the league by the Fanny C. Hyde Estate, the league built a Teener field adjacent to Hyde Park on school grounds. The field will be for the exclusive use of the Owego Teener League during baseball season.

In 2011, due to the flooding in September, the Warner Building was demolished and removed from Hyde Park. The former Flats Community Club provided funding to replace the building and in the fall of 2012, the building was completed.

Hyde Park now consists of five fully enclosed fields plus the Teener field on the OFA grounds, dugouts, field house, two storage buildings, batting cage, tee cage, a pitching complex, and two pavilions, and is the envy of all who visit here. The strong community support over the years has given us an outstanding program for the youth of our community. 

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