WINCHESTER — When Bob Nutile stepped up as a volunteer with the youth baseball program in his hometown, first as an umpire in 1966 and then as a coach two years later, both at the Babe Ruth level, he was just getting started. The thought that he would ever play a major role in transforming the program into a model organization never crossed his mind.
At the time, the 15-year-old all-scholastic athlete was simply trying to give back to the community that reached out to him with open arms when his father, John, died in 1965.
“People in the town of Winchester were great to me — they came rushing to me,” he recalled.
“I didn’t know anything about a fuse box, and they helped me learn how to do those things and I wanted to pay them back. I was a good athlete, so I felt I could pay back that way” as a volunteer coach and umpire.
Nearly 50 years later, Nutile remains at the forefront, as president of the Winchester Sachem Youth baseball and softball league, which this week will host the Cal Ripken Major 60 World Series for the second time.
“It was just a wonderful experience for us [in 2009] and the people who came in had a great time,” Nutile said. The tournament “was rumored to be one of the best ever in the history of Cal Ripken baseball, so when we asked for another it was easy.”
The 10-team baseball tourney for 12-year-olds begins Wednesday with a full day of opening ceremonies at Robert J. Nutile Field, and pool play will take place the following day until Monday.
Participating teams are Burlington (New England champion); Raynham (Eastern Massachusetts); East Boise, Idaho (Pacific Northwest); El Dorado, Ark. (Southwest); Gloucester, Va. (Southeast); Grand Forks, N.D. (Midwest Plains); Kingsbridge (Bronx), N.Y. (Middle Atlantic); UCT (Kokomo), Indiana (Ohio Valley); Visalia, Calif. (Pacific Southwest); and host Winchester.
“What separates us is the opening ceremony,” league vice president Michael Creane said. “There’s a huge light show and emcee Chris Collins introduces all of the managers and coaches individually.
“There’s great energy and teams are high-fiving, and it’s a great moment for the kids — and that’s the moment I live for. They’ve been working hard all summer and they get to a World Series, and they should get a chance to shine.”
The town rallies around hosting the World Series, but times weren’t always easy for the Winchester league, and the program nearly collapsed in 1988 due to financial trouble.
Nutile couldn’t stand to watch the league crumble, and with the help of 17 parents, he devised an improvement plan. Nutile divvied up numerous responsibilities such as ordering baseballs and new equipment, while he worked to keep the town fields in top condition. Slowly, the program became relevant again.
“The program wasn’t in a good, stable place yet, and there weren’t a lot of people willing to put the effort in,” said Creane. “But [Nutile] was. I give him a lot of credit.
The World Series is emblematic of the hardships the league endured, but more importantly, it has reinvigorated the program’s savior.
Nutile nearly lost his life Aug. 20, 2006 when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. While in the hospital, he was also diagnosed with leukemia, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.
“I’m going to fight to the end,” said Nutile, who will turn 63 in October.
“The diabetes is gone, the leukemia is under control and in remission, but the stroke left its mark and I fight the Parkinson’s every day. Jimmy Valvano said, ‘Don’t ever give up.’ And I’m not about to give up.”
“There’s absolutely no question the tournament helps. I’m on the phone all day and it keeps my mind off things. I love kids, I love baseball and I grew up in baseball — it just keeps me going.”
Nutile will make his World Series coaching debut with the Winchester team, and referred to it as the pinnacle of a volunteer coach’s career.
“It’s my Super Bowl,” he said proudly.
On Aug. 13, the final day of pool play, Nutile will be awarded with the 2012 Babe Ruth baseball Lefty Gomez Volunteer award, which is selected from more than 1 million volunteers worldwide.
“It’s a surprise to me,” Nutile said. “I’m stunned by the whole thing. When you set out to do things, you never start out with these types of goals in mind and to win awards. That never entered my mind.
“I’m honored and I’m humbled, because there are a lot of other people that deserved it too.”
For Creane, Nutile is a sure fit for the award.
“A lot of us work really hard, and at the tip of the pyramid is Bob,” Creane said. “We all take great pride in getting it right. But to be able to bring other programs in from other parts of the country, to share stories and great experiences — that’s what it’s all about for him.”
For information and game schedules, visit the league’s site, winchesterworldseries.com.
Billerica riding high
The Billerica Post 268 American Legion baseball team in Saturday’s state tournament in New Bedford is riding the momentum of its dominant pitching staff, anchored by Walker O’Connor and Soren Hanson.
O’Connor, 5-0 in the regular season, opened the playoffs with a gem, throwing a perfect game in a 4-0 win over Andover last Saturday.
The next day, Hanson (6-0) followed O’Connor with a no-hitter, as Post 268 blanked Lynn 4-0 Monday.
“Our pitching staff has been great for us every game this year, and they’ve kept us in every game,” Billerica coach Jeff Paquette said. “Normally our offense does the job, but this playoff stint hasn’t had big numbers.”
Walker’s younger brother, Cole, pitched the clinching game of the Zone 5 bracket — a 3-1 victory over Lynn Tuesday that clinched the bracket victory.
Newburyport Post 150 will represent Zone 8 in the state tournament after beating North Chelmsford 2-0 on Sunday, Sudbury 3-1 Monday, and Methuen 8-1 Tuesday.
Blaise Whitman pitched a complete game for Newburyport Tuesday, allowing just one earned run.