Read our interview with CJ Rahr and hear from some of his biggest fans
By Andrew Harris, pictured is Rahr hand raking the Hank Sinkey field before a game
Since 1977, Wellsville Little League has been a big part of CJ Rahr’s life. He played five seasons at the now Hank Sinkey Field. Rahr has coached and volunteered for much of the time since and developed himself quite a fan base. His fellow volunteers, coaches, and parents of today’s players are impressed and grateful for the dedication CJ has for the facility, the game, and most important: The players!
We stopped Rahr in the middle of his busy life to ask about running the league and the roots of his committment.
SUN: Did you play Little League in Wellsville? If so, on what team and who was the coach ?
CJ: I played in Wellsville Little League from 1977 to 1982. In Majors, I was on Elks, coached by John Lewis.
SUN: How many years have you served on the Little League board? How many as President?
CJ: I have been a volunteer in Little League for the past 16 years. I have served on the Little League Board for 12 years, nine of them as President.
SUN: Your fellow LL volunteers seem to really look up to you as a leader, but also as a workhorse who puts in some serious weekly hours. Where do you find the time ?
CJ: Finding the time is not difficult because my wife, Kate, and my family are very supportive of my involvement in the league and the time involved to properly run it. When I volunteer and run for President each year, I do so knowing that I am making a commitment to do the best I can for the players, families, volunteers, sponsors, and our community. For me to meet my personal expectations, I know it will take a significant contribution of time, and I make the successful operation of the league a priority.
SUN: Besides the sport of baseball, what is the one thing you want every player to have learned, or experienced when the season ends?
CJ: Other than baseball, I would like our players to have learned how to be a great teammate by the time they age out of Little League. It involves giving your best effort, being unselfish, optimistic, respectful, humble, resilient and taking responsibility. These characteristics will help players become great young adults. I also want players to experience the gratitude from an adult volunteer for taking a positive action.
Last year, Wellsville Little League hosted the 9-11 year-old section tournament between Wellsville and Penfield. One Penfield player showed up several hours early and asked if this was the field they were playing at. I said yes and the player jogged back to his car and I returned to raking the filed. The player came back, asked if I needed any help, and proceeded to help me finish raking the field.
Penfield ultimately won the tournament and during the presentation of their championship banner, I took the time to publicly acknowledge what that player did. It is important that we positively reinforce when players do good things.
SUN: Little League in Wellsville is very similar to when I played 35 years ago. Do you see that continuity continuing for another 35 years?
CJ: think Wellsville Little League will continue to be similar 35 years from now. Many parents and grandparents, who grew up in Wellsville and played Little League here, want their children to have the same Little League experience they had. To me, that is a primary reason why the league continues to operate in a similar manner. In the short term, the Board of Directors has individuals that promote what is best for the players and there are some coaches and managers at the younger levels that will make good board members in the future.
SUN: Volunteerism has changed since we were younger and I know that is a major challenge for the Wellsville Little League. Let’s hear your motivational speech on why community members should consider being part of the league:
CJ: It takes around 75 volunteers to successfully run the baseball season and we are always looking for additional volunteers to be role models for our players. Wellsville Little League is one of the oldest operating Little Leagues in New York State and it has always placed a priority on teaching baseball and developing well adjusted, stronger and happier children who will grow to be good, decent, healthy and trustworthy citizens.
The attainment of athletic skill or the winning of the game is secondary, and the molding of future citizens is of prime importance. Those are the objectives as they appear in our league constitution. I believe in those objectives. We strive to provide a healthy and safe environment for all children to develop themselves to become better people.
Now that you know a little more about the man, let’s hear what his peers have to say about CJ Rahr. We asked some of his fellow Little League board members to chime in about his work and impact:
In a time when travel ball is prominent and there is a decline in youth recreation sport participation across the country, Wellsville little league is still going strong. Thanks to CJ Rahr, who doesn’t only see to it that every player has the opportunity to play on a well-groomed ball field in a sharp looking uniform and gets a bite to eat at the end of the game, he works hard year round behind the scenes to make sure that every season the youth in our district are able to have access to a league with fair opportunity to participate despite barriers or family hardships and closely following the Little League Organization mission statement: to teach life lessons that build stronger individuals and communities. I first met CJ years ago, long before I was on the board and we briefly discussed the Little League challenger league, which is an adaptive league for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I was working for Allegany ARC at the time) It was obvious through our conversation that he had quite a bit of knowledge about that league and I was impressed, but as I got to know CJ I realize it is because he is constantly on the search for how he can help Wellsville Little League be more inclusive and leave no child behind–even if our area cannot support it, you can bet he has researched it! CJ is the epitome of all that the Little League Organization embodies and it has been a pleasure serving on the board with him as president. Thank you for being a champion for our youth and helping provide a safe place for them to be little. “You can be a kid for as long as you want, when you play baseball.”- Cal Ripken Jr.
Ashleigh Cline, Wellsville Little League Board Member
I have served on the WLL Board with CJ for 5 years and I can honestly say that CJ’s dedication and commitment to our league is second to none. He epitomizes all that is great with Little League and always puts the interests of our players, volunteers, and families before his own. From the start to end of each season, there is rarely a day that you will find CJ not at the field either mowing, lining the bases, stocking the concession stand, or announcing games. He always makes sure that the hotdogs are ready for our players after a game and that there is always new grass on the field. CJ believes that every kid should be able to play baseball if they want to, and that Little League is way more than just winning games – its about character development, sportsmanship, skills development, and most of all…FUN!! During his tenure as President, he has truly been the heart and soul of our organization.
Kris Green, Wellsville Little League Board Member
CJ is passionate about Wellsville Little League and is devoted to keep WLL going strong.
He’s a great organizer and spends countless hours behind the scenes keeping everything running smoothly. His knowledge on how the Little league Organization should be ran is unprecedented.
Ryan Clark, Board member and team coach
Working with CJ on the Little League Board the last 3 years has been a pleasure and shown me how much preparation and dedication goes into a single Little League season. CJ always places the best interest of our players first, most importantly player safety.
Not only does CJ have a broad knowledge of the game of baseball. He has always been available with any question I may have, be it as a coach or board member. What I enjoy most is the knowledge he carries from the past 16 years.
Often throughout the season, during the week he can be found chalking the field, mowing the grass or in the concession stand preparing for the night’s games. Yet he has done so much more behind the scenes. He has volunteered countless hours over the years for the Wellsville Little League program.
CJ’s knowledge, professionalism, leadership, and organization as the Little League President would be hard to replace. He likes to emphasize that he is just a volunteer continuing the tradition. In my opinion he has raised the bar.
I always enjoy talking about the game of Baseball with him, even though he is an Orioles fan….
Dan Russo, Wellsville Little League Board Member
CJ dedicates a lot of time and energy into the concessions and the baseball fields for our kids to enjoy and grow stronger. He is also a fan!! CJ makes it a point to go to both fields and cheer everyone on which means a lot to the kids. He makes it a point to know the kids and families involved, creating a Little League community. His leadership sets a great example for everyone involved.
Jessica Preston, volunteer and parent
Read CJ’s speech at the opening day ceremony of this years Wellsville Little League: