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Patience, Enthusiasm for Little League Keep 80-Year-Old District Administrator Young at Heart
Serving as DA since 1993, Mrs. O’Neil has been a Little League volunteer for 40 years. Starting in 1966, she kept the scorebook for her husband, Edmund, who was a long-time coach and manager in the East Lynn (Mass.) Little League before his passing in 1999.
“I started as scorekeeper on account of my son,” Mrs. O’Neil said. “Patrick (O’Neil) played Little League through Senior Division for my husband who managed in Little League for 28 years.”
That first year made such a profound impression on Mrs. O’Neil that keeping the book became just one of her many Little League-related duties. She was East Lynn’s player agent for eight years, and later served as the district’s director for Junior, Senior and Big League baseball.
The Lynn Parks Commission also was aware of her organizational skills and in 1981 asked her to coordinate the city’s playing field schedules. As District 16 director for Junior and Senior Division baseball, she was already responsible for assigning umpires and scheduling field usage, so there was little trouble transitioning into the job.
“When my son was growing up, you couldn’t get near the fields because there was so much support from family and friends,” Mrs. O’Neil said. “That not the case so much anymore, because kids are doing so much more now and the parents are not around as much.”
Mrs. O’Neil has six grandchildren (five boys, one girl) who are all Little League graduates.
In her first year as DA, she was recognized by the Lynn City Council with the dedication of the “Alice O’Neil Baseball Diamond.” In 2004, the East Lynn Little League honored the O’Neils by naming the league’s clubhouse after them.
“I enjoy working with kids,” Mrs. O’Neil said. “Even though times have changed since I first got into Little League, I still talk to leagues personally and keep involved by attending meetings each month with the league presidents.”
During Mrs. O’Neil’s time administering to the 13-league district, it has hosted several state tournaments in junior and senior division baseball and Little League softball. Also during her tenure, she has been an integral part in chartering a district-wide Challenger Division, introducing softball into the local Little Leagues. In her first year as DA, she instituted a policy for conducting background checks on district staff.
“If anyone in the district has a problem we work it out,” Mrs. O’Neil said. “I have broad shoulders and been involved with kids for so long that there are times that I have to remind the managers and coaches we are doing what is right for the kids. Whenever something flares up, I talk with the leagues, privately if I need to, and don’t spread it all around.”
Administering to a district that services nearly 5,000 children would seem like a daunting task for an 80-year-old grandmother, but Mrs. O’Neil is quick to point out that her staff is experienced and understanding of what it takes to run a local league and district efficiently.
“They are excellent,” she said. “We have district representatives from each league. If a league has problems they can contact the district staff, and that works out well.”
For her staff, and the district at large, having patience has proven to be the linchpin for success, Mrs. O’Neil said. “If there is chance to give some advice to a new DA, I’d say be patient with your staff and your leagues, and always make sure you know someone who knows the rules.”
Mrs. O’Neil will be 83 when this current term ends, but that does not matter to her because age is just a number. “If I sit around, I’m no good,” she said. “My mother used to say, ‘if you have a minute to yourself, do something for someone else.’”