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Profile of Travel Director Chris Bates in TAP into Scotch-Plains-Fanwood (TAP into SPF)

Q&A with SPFBL Travel Director Chris Bates

By John Mooney

Monday, November 24, 2014 

SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ - Chris Bates took over as travel director for the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League (SPFBL) about a year ago. Since that time, the travel program has changed and grown. He sat down with TAP into SPF to discuss changes he has implemented and plans for the program in 2015 and beyond.

1. Why did you take the position of SPFBL travel director?

I wanted to help make an impact on our community in a positive way. Youth sports showed me so much growing up. A quick example: how to deal with winning/losing and the importance of each.  You can’t always win in the game of life and sports helps teach you how to rebound when times are tough or don’t go your way.

2. Looking back at your first year, enumerate the successes of the program.

Most importantly, we had over 160 kids playing travel baseball throughout the summer in a competitive environment. We were able to enlist some new independent managers with a connection to the SPF community. These  paid managers and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to coaching youth ballplayers. The feedback on the independent travel manager program has been fabulous. Right now, we have it for the summer teams 10U and older. 

We also brought in two new independent head coaches for the Middle School baseball program and prepped a graduating class of eighth-graders for their transition into their freshman year in high school. One of our Middle School coaches was fortunate enough to secure the SPFHS freshman coaching position.  

Lastly, while we will never chase trophies, we did have two teams win their championships and another team make their league finals in 2014. We were able to also field five travel teams in the fall season – more than double from the previous year.

3. What are some areas you’d like to improve?

We are flexible and will always look to improve our program. There are several takeaways from my first year at the helm. Just one example would be the 7U program in 2015 will have a Spring season dedicated to practicing/developing. This will prepare them for their summer season. As we know squeezing consistent practices into the summer season with the games/tournaments and Mother Nature can be challenging.

4. What were the biggest challenges? Is there anything you would have done differently during your first year?

There will always be detractors; that comes with the territory. The biggest challenge comes in assuring people that every decision we have made has been for the benefit of the program as a whole. I am always open to feedback and understand we are all human and make mistakes -- and we also have opportunities to correct them. Looking back, if I had to do it all over again, I probably would have been more proactive on communication in the early stages of the transition. Lesson learned.

5. You have instituted a number of changes in the travel program.  What was the rationale for those changes?

We have instituted changes -- including a switch to age-based, rather than grade-based travel team selection -- to help position our program to successfully develop better baseball players. If you look at nearby towns that have successful high school programs, they also have an excellent feeder program into the high school. Cranford, Westfield, Ridge, Bridgewater, and Milburn are just a few nearby towns with successful youth and high school programs. We aim to help do the same here. We have a strong history of a successful baseball. We need to continue to instill that community pride for our kids and families to be proud to wear the SPF on their hat and/or Raiders on their shirt.

I made it a point in Year 1 not to make too many changes. We instituted uniform changes at the 7U level and look to build on that. Additionally, we made it a policy to have independent managers at the older levels who some type of connection to the SPF community -- live, work, attended school here, etc. This was an important implementation in my opinion... and one that showed great results. We reviewed our program, looked for areas of opportunities, and came up with a list of items to execute. The major ones are the age/grade change, holding one tryout instead of two tryouts, implementation of winter training as a team (led by professional instructors), and planning for Cooperstown 12U trips.

6. Explain the new Cooperstown 12U program. Why wasn't it done before?

The 12U Cooperstown trip is an exciting one. During an athlete’s 12U season -- typically after their summer season is over -- the team will take a one week trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., and play teams from all over the country. Each team is guaranteed six games, and it is just an awesome way to commemorate the youngsters last time on the 50/70 diamond (before advancing to the full 60/90 field). We will soon be announcing the fundraising vessel for this program to help the families offset some of the cost. There is still more exciting stuff to come and needless to say the sky is the limit for this program with the help of our community.

7. What are your long-term goals for the SPFBL Travel program?

Firstly, the goal of the SPF Travel baseball program is to provide an outlet for kids to have fun while playing in competitive baseball environment. Secondly, we want kids in our league to develop as baseball players and as individuals. There are so many life lessons to be learned playing our National Pastime. Lastly, it is important for us to help our high school as a feeder program. Team continuity and familiarity with each other as a player is priceless. This can be lost when we have kids in an age group playing spread-out amongst 3-4 various teams in and outside of the SPF Program.

8. What is the time commitment involved for you in running the Travel program?

Maybe I should let my wife answer this one! Seriously, it is an extremely time-consuming position with really no off season. However, every second spent volunteering my time is worth it when we see kids around town wearing their SPF hat with pride.

9. Did you play baseball in HS or college?

Yes, both. Baseball has allowed me to see the world, make lifelong friends and learn the importance of what hard work can do for you. After my collegiate years were over I was fortunate enough to work over seven seasons in the New York Yankees farm system learning the business side of the sport.

10. What else do you want people to know?

I am always willing to speak to anyone with any ideas/comments, etc. They can email me at


2015 Spring Registration


Registration for the 2015 season is now OPEN!!  Please note this year, based on overwheming feedback, we will be adding the cost of the Coin Fundraiser ($40) to the registration fee for the 1st registration per household only.  Additional registrations will simply be the appropriate registration fee charge for the particular division.  For more information on the registration process or the Coin Fundraiser, Click Here to download the Registration Flyer.

2015 Travel Program
Register for Tryouts Now!!

Dear SPFBL Families:

 We have opened tryout registration for the 2015 SPFBL Travel Baseball season.  Tryout will be held between 12/6 and 12/13, the dates/times being determined by age group.  The specific tryout dates/times can be found below.

If you have already read through this entire message, then you can CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE 2015 TRAVEL PROGRAM TRYOUTS.  Otherwise, please read on before registering so you are aware of some of the changes for this year.  Click "Continue..." to read on...

Travel Program
Open Letter from the Travel Director, Chris Bates

Hello SPFBL baseball community...

Middle School Hitting Camp
with SPFHS Varsity Head Coach Joe Higgins

Middle School Hitting is back for the 2015!   

Monday nights beginning Monday, January 5th and running through Monday, February 23rd.

  • 7th & 8th graders ONLY
  • Intended as training/prep for SPFBL Middle School Baseball tryouts (targeted for Monday, February 16th - President's Day)
  • Instructed by SPFHS Varisty Head Coach Joe Higgins and his staff
  • Cost is $225 for the program

Note times by grade:

  • 7th grade: 7pm - 8pm
  • 8th grade: 8pm - 9pm

Space is limited!  To register, download the flyer below and follow the instructions to reserve your spot.  GOOD LUCK IN 2015!!

SPFBL Merchandise
$10 off now until 11/30/2014

The perfect holiday gift.  Give the give of BASEBALL!!  $10 GIFT CARD!!



Buy apparel & accessories for all members of the family as well as customize your own.  If prompted, locker # is ek005.

Click Here to Begin Shopping for SPFBL Apparel


Modell's Holiday Savings
Starts 11/28/14

SPFBL is pleased to bring you holiday savings, courtesy of Modell's!  The downloadable coupon can be used at NJ Modell's locations throughout our entire period.  So be sure to keep it so you can reuse, or just print as many copies as you need, so you can use it on every trip you make to Modell's during the timeframe.  You can also combine with other coupon offers and get double savings!  It's a sweet deal.  This year we run from 11/28/2014 through 12/25/2014 (Christmas Day).

Download the Modell's Holiday Savings Coupon Here (begins 11/28/2014)


Fall House League
Congrats to All Participants!!

The Fall House League season has completed successfully.  Thanks to all of the players, umpires, managers, coaches and parents for making it such a smooth season.  Special thanks to John Mooney and Marco Massa for running the show.  Thanks to Jami Pawelec and her staff for having the Hut open for business.  Have a safe Halloween!!


SPFBL Summer Clinic Helps Players Improve Skills
Instruction Followed by Pickup Games

SPFBL launched its Wednesday evening summer instruction program on July 9th designed to help players not currently involved in summer travel to develop offensive & defensive skills.  The offering proved to be an immediate hit.

Students, grades 3-5, will learn the basics of hitting, fielding, throwing, base-running, and pitching for the first hour, followed by an "old school" pick-up game among the young players. The camp is led by veteran baseball instructor Ed Kania. 
Charlie Brown's Fresh Grill (2376 North Ave.) has agreed to be a prime sponsor of the District 12 Tournament

SPFBL is proud to announce that Charlie Brown's Fresh Grill (2376 North Ave.) has agreed to be a prime sponsor of this event in 2014.  As part of its sponsorship, patrons who show their SPFBL Coins at the restaurant are eligible to receive a 20% discount on their order. Additionally, Charlie Brown's -- an area favorite for over 50 years --  is selling gift cards at the Booth Field concession stand.  The gift cards cost $20 each and are immediately redeemable for $25 at Charlie Brown's Fresh Grill – that’s a 25% bonus right off the bat!  They are redeemable at three area locations: Scotch Plains, Chatham and Millburn.  
Charlie Brown's Fresh Grill
2376 North Ave.          35 Main St.         522 Southern Boulevard
Scotch Plains, NJ       Millburn, NJ         Chatham, NJ
908-232-3443            973-376-1724     973-822-1800
Hosted by SPFBL

Click HERE to see the latest results and standings.

Coin-Toss Game
Coin-toss winners chosen


Click "Continue..." below for more information...

Scotch Plains Fanwood Baseball League Announces Award Winners, Opens 2014 Season
Coverage in The Alternative Press of Scotch Plains-Fanwood

Scotch Plains Fanwood Baseball League Announces Award Winners, Opens 2014 Season

John Mooney

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Memorial Day Parade a Success!
Thanks to All Who Came Out in Support of the League and Our Heroes!!

Scenes from Opening Day 2014

Under sunny skies on Saturday, April 12th, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Baseball League opened its 2014 Spring Season.

Field Status Indicator
Check with your Manager to be sure...

We have finished testing a new Field Status Alert feature, located on the right-side of the screen. This feature is now fully operational, but you are advised to please note the following when field conditions are in question:

  1. The Scotch Plains Ballfield Hotline, while designed to be a "one-stop shopping", currently is not - it is just for Scotch Plains Rec fields - which include Brookside, Farley, Kramer, Memorial, Rt. 22 and VoTech).  We use that same hotline to determine field status.  So our Field Status tool should reflect what's indicated on the Ballfield Hotline FOR SP FIELDS ONLY.
  2. The field status Facebook site ( is also intended to be a one-stop shop for SP, FW and BOE.  HOWEVER that is completely dependent on Scotch Plains Rec, Fanwood Rec (LaGrande, Forest Road Park, Watson Road) and SPF Board of Ed (Park MS, Terrill MS, SPFHS) each posting their own field status.  So if they don't update their field status, then we will frankly be trying to get that status from them in real-time. 
  3. Booth Field we control.  And while it drains extemely well, it may or may not be playable.  We will indicate this is the Field Status tool.
  4. St. Barts is a little bit of an outlier, semi-maintained by SPFBL but in an unofficial way.  Best advice is that if you have an event scheduled there, check with your Manager and he/she will have the status.
  5. NOTE: We use the above field status indicators to populate our own field status feature.  As a result, we may or may not have a completely accurate field status at the time you check our website, until we can either get an indication from SP rec, FW rec and SPF BOE... OR we can check the fields out ourselves and make an assessment (for those organizations that permit us to do that).  SO...............
  6. CHECK & RE-CHECK OUR WEBSITE BEFORE YOU HEAD OUT YOUR EVENT!!  If you are in doubt, contact your Manager to be sure of whether your event is ON or Off.  Managers- If you are in doubt, contact your Division VP's as they will be in the loop on the latest status in real-time and should be passing that along to you.

Hope this helps solve some of the field status confusion.  It's not going to rain again during the spring, so we should have this problem any more :-).

Kids love to Color!!
Bambino Activity Sheets

Get your kids started right for Baseball 2014 - Download and print these activity sheets!  


Special Needs Program
Volunteers Needed

This season, we are offering a baseball program focused on children with special needs.  Click below to see how you can help make a difference...

Bat Regulations - 2012 Rule Changes
Updated 3/16/2012

In 2012, SPFYBA will permit the use of bats that meet the standard of Babe Ruth League / Cal Ripken.  This is a change from recent years.  However bat availability and additional research on the subject has brought the Executive Board to the conclusion that in 2012 we will follow the Babe Ruth standard.  ALSO: (3/16/2012) Update on Nike and Marucci bats that FAILED standards and will be ineligible for use in Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken play!

Continue reading below to learn more...

Do you own a business (or know someone who does)?
We need your sponsorship help...

Click here to go to our Fundraising page.  Team sponsorships available!!!  And more...

SPFBL Ballfield Hotline
For Field Status due to Inclement Weather

Please check the ballfield hotline if weather is questionable. Call 908-322-6700 x226.  PLEASE NOTE:

  • Updated by the Township of Scotch Plains by 3pm weekdays, and as needed on weekends.
  • Refers ONLY to SCOTCH PLAINS TOWNSHIP REC fields (Memorial, Brookside, Rt. 22, VOTECH, Farley, etc.), FANWOOD BOROUGH REC fields (LaGrande, Forest Road Park, Watson Rd Basin, etc.) and BOARD OF EDUCATION fields (SPFHS, Terrill Middle, Park Middle, etc.).  
  • BOOTH FIELD IS ENTIRELY OWNED AND OPERATED BY SPFBL.  IT ALSO HAS INCREDIBLE DRAINAGE.  So it is not unusual for the town and board of ed to close all of their fields, and we still play on Booth Field.  Please check the website for updates on the condition of Booth Field.
No Parking on Valley Road
Violators may be ticketed

Everyone should be reminded that there is No Parking on Valley Road. This includes anywhere near the parking lot and anywhere near the batting cages. Coaches should drop off equipment and park in the lot. No parking in the little drive up area by the cages. Parents may NOT wait outside the cages in their car for players. Please adhere to these rules. Our neighbors have been patient with us, and we don’t want to see anyone issued a parking summons. THANK YOU!!

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As of Tue Nov 25
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