Where We Live

Little League Is a Hit in Upper Northwest

Capitol City Little League Giants pitcher Vince Kardos warms up before stepping on the mound at the baseball field in Chevy Chase.
Capitol City Little League Giants pitcher Vince Kardos warms up before stepping on the mound at the baseball field in Chevy Chase. (Dominic Bracco Ii - By Dominic Bracco II -- The Washington Post)

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By David Driver
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 25, 2008

When Maria Velleca and her family moved from Connecticut in the summer of 2006, she told their real estate agent in Washington there was one condition.

"We can't move until All-Stars is over," said Velleca, who didn't want to move her two sons until after the highlight of their youth baseball season.

The agent pointed out the Velleca family had purchased a house in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, home to Capitol City Little League, one of the more active youth baseball programs in the city.

"It just made our transition smoother," Velleca, now a biology professor at Georgetown University, said of the league. This past season her husband, Mark, helped coach one of the teams. Both boys still play.

In an era where youth increasingly flock to basketball and football, Capitol City Little League has helped counter that trend. There are 25 baseball teams spread across four divisions -- Major, Minor, American and National -- and 10 softball teams for girls. The league has been around for about 20 years.

There are about 475 players, including about 25 girls who play baseball. The fall season runs through Nov. 15. The league uses five fields, including one at Lafayette Elementary School and the Chevy Chase field just south of Western Avenue.

League vice president David Schauer, whose family has lived in the neighborhood since 2001, has three sons who play.

"I wanted to find a place where a sense of community was a top priority," said Schauer, who was a pitcher in college at Liberty University in Virginia and retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004. "I like to tell people that baseball builds a better community. That is what we are doing with Cap City."

The league has run clinics that have featured Brendan Sullivan, who played in high school at St. Albans and pitched in the minor leagues; Rod Delmonico, the former head coach at the University of Tennessee; and local youth coaching legend John "Coach Mac" McCarthy, who was instrumental in bringing Lastings Milledge of the Washington Nationals to a recent clinic.

Games are a focus of family life in the neighborhood, an affluent area of Northwest Washington that straddles Connecticut Avenue south of Western Avenue.

"This league and this neighborhood are very intertwined. It is the source of a lot of friendships," said Hassan Murphy, the father of two boys who play.

Murphy, whose family lives on Stevens Place, grew up in Baltimore and played baseball as a boy. He played lacrosse in college at Williams and now coaches one of the teams in the Capitol City league.

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© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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