Mt. Airy Baseball: Preserving a neighborhood gem

by Ben Silver
Posted 7/10/24

Mt. Airy Baseball is preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year.

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Mt. Airy Baseball: Preserving a neighborhood gem


Mt. Airy Baseball, now preparing to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, is a case study of what is possible when neighbors stubbornly refuse to let go of what they think makes their community special. While other Little League ball clubs across the city are shrinking as for-profit showcase teams take over, Mt. Airy’s program is huge – and growing. 

About 1,400 players register for programs throughout the year – with some 850 of whom show up to play in the spring. There are currently 60 teams, and more are being planned. 

“There’s nothing else like it – and it doesn’t get much publicity, so those who aren’t a part of it may not get what a treasure, and a gem the program is,” said Josephine Winter, executive director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors whose children have been playing there for three years. “You get such a feeling of community there. First, everyone is included – starting with the little 5-year-olds who don’t know which way to run when they hit the ball up to the older kids who could potentially be scouted for the major league.”

Next, she said, the league has managed to maintain the diversity that Mt. Airy has long treasured, and tended. A racially and socioeconomically mixed group of players come from 27 different zip codes (half of whom live in Mt. Airy), with about 20 percent paying the $100 cost on an installment plan. 

“For that, you get everything – pants, a shirt, all the games have umpires, and there’s trophies too,” Winter said. 

So they’re celebrating – starting with the installation of 80 feet of fence art at Mt. Airy Playground on Germantown Avenue between Sedgwick Street and Mt. Pleasant Avenue. That was pulled off in partnership with Tiny WPA, a local nonprofit, and the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District.

“You can see the hub of energy, every time you drive by, particularly on weekends,” said Janis Risch, executive director of the Mt. Airy Business Improvement District. “From the point of view of the business district, we love all of those families coming to Germantown Avenue and hope that visiting our other shops and businesses as part of their trip to Germantown Avenue is a way of supporting the playground and those families by contributing to this fence art.”

Next, a short film now in the works will feature boys and girls who grew up to be the men and women who now serve as members of the community, as well as a selection of former professional baseball players who played in the league at one time or another.

“Former players and their coaches, current players and their parents, people who have had relationships with each other for 20 years… And so they talk,” Mt. Airy Baseball commissioner Dan Winterstein said. 

Meanwhile, the league is swamped with the regular headaches and problems of running a program like this one. Field maintenance, hiring umpires, reserving diamonds, bringing aboard more volunteers, making schedules and so much more go into ensuring that the league doesn’t collapse in on itself.

“Everyone – from the commissioner to the people who work the snack bar, and the coaches too, is a volunteer. They have no paid staff. My husband got trained to work the lawn mower,” Winter explained.

So, once again, volunteers are stepping up to help write grants that might provide financial support. Dozens of local businesses sponsor teams which helps keep league dues low. The price to play hasn’t risen in almost a decade, and Winterstein intends to keep it that way.

When other leagues have raised costs they’ve faltered, Winterstein said, and eliminated the economic diversity that makes Little League special. Parents who send their kids to for-profit showcase leagues – which don’t share the same goals as community leagues like Mt. Airy’s – can easily wind up spending $5,000 or $10,000. 

“One of the things that we're absolutely committed to is keeping fees low. And so the league's racially diverse, gender diverse, but it's also economically diverse,” Winterstein said. “There are parts of our area that are very wealthy and there are parts in that area that are absolutely not.”

West Mt Airy Neighbors is currently working with local grant writers to look for financial support for the program. For more information contact