One longtime resident and familiar face behind the plate is set to go to bat for Westfield Little League.
Ken Diegel, 57, of Westfield was elected President at the league's monthly Board of Directors meeting on Sunday, November 9. He is replacing longtime league president John Wheeler, who retired from the post last month.
"John ran a premier program in the Pioneer Valley for many years," said Diegel. "I’ve never taken over for a legend before, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity to grow the program over the next few years."
According to Little League officials, no one else was in the running for the position.
"I’ve got extensive knowledge of the program," explained Diegel, who served as Umpire-in-Chief for the last two years. He was also Vice President of the league's Softball Division in 2000. Diegel has been an umpire for Little League and high school for the last 20 years.
A retired United States Navy Submariner (1975-95), Diegel went on to serve as a district manager for H&R Block for 16 years.
"I have experience in management, which is essential for Little League, and I have active experience in stressful situations," he said.
Diegel said his first duty is to launch a capital campaign for the organization, as money is needed to improve local ball fields and overall playing conditions for the players.
Still, his top priority is making the local game even more kid-friendly.
"It’s for the kids, Diegel said. "My kids weren’t All-Star caliber. I want to keep it fun for all."
One kid-friendly idea, already approved for the 2015 season, is that 6-year olds will be able to participate in Little League for the first time. As a result, additional divisions will be created in both baseball and softball.
In addition, children living or attending school in Southwick will be eligible to participate in Westfield Little League with no restrictions.
More information will become available as sign-up sessions approach. This year's live sign-ups will take place on Friday, January 9 and Saturday, January 10 at the Westfield Senior Center. Online registration will also be available. Players who sign up before January 11 will receive a $5 discount.