Adolfo “Al” Morales grew up playing baseball on the North Meadow fields. At at the age of six, he was playing baseball on the very fields he now schedules Yorkville Sports Association (YSA) softball teams on. It’s amazing how life can come full circle.
YSA has been an invaluable resource to the New York City Parks Department and the citizens and corporations of New York City since 1978 when it began forming softball leagues with eight community teams. An ad in the paper looking for a few more teams brought recreational softball players and corporate teams out of the woodwork and Al realized there was an extraordinary need for someone to organize sports teams in the city. By 1994, YSA had 159 softball teams, ballooning to 350 by 1998, and it also added 60 football teams, 40 basketball teams and over 40 volleyball teams.
The drive to be all inclusive made YSA so special. With nearly 500 teams in the league, YSA was still receiving daily calls and emails from individuals wanting to play, To satisfy the demand, it began offering open scrimmages and organizing individuals into teams. Bringing complete strangers together to build friendships — that’s what it’s all about. On at least five occasions these newly-minted friends even brought home a championship. YSA is proud to bring people from all walks of life together, especially when it culminates in a championship — not an easy feat for complete strangers.
Soon after YSA’s inception, the demand was so great that YSA began scheduling games at parks that were underutilized and in need of repair. Although players were apprehensive to travel too far north, Al convinced them that ballfields were a neutral zone and it was safe to play. The fields remain safe to this day, partly because YSA made them viable and they became a source of revenue for the city. The Parks Department was delighted with what was happening.
Throughout the years, many sports organizations and corporations came to YSA for help with their events because of its reputation for cutting through red tape in order to get things done. Volley Across America turned full management of their NYC event to YSA who secured sites, volunteers and participants for their centennial celebration. Hundreds participated, utilizing five make-shift courts in Central Park’s band shell for a fun day of clinics, contests, fun rallies and mini matches, led by professional volleyball players and future Olympians, Holly McPeak and Mike Dobb. In the end, Volley Across America thanked Al and YSA for helping make the Centennial of Volleyball Celebration a huge success in New York.
Shortly thereafter, Evian contacted YSA and sponsored what became the Evian volleyball league.YSA was given a booth at the Evian Indoor Beach Volleyball Tournament at Madison Square Garden, rubbing elbows with Karch Kiraly and all the top world volleyball pros and Olympians.
Not long after, the New York City Sports Commission Mayor’s office came calling, looking for help with the Inaugural NYC Mayor’s Cup Softball Championship, a five borough tournament that Al decided to bill as a fundraiser for the Citywide Youth Softball Championships. After a very successful first run in 1996, the Mayor’s Cup Softball Tournament would crown a true NYC Softball champion in three categories: Coed, Men’s and Women’s. YSA and the New York City Sports Commission went on to have a long and prosperous partnership. In 1999, the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA), now know as USA Softball — the governing body of United States Softball — sent Al a letter of thanks for his devotion to softball. They complemented the quality of work, saying the fields were in excellent shape, the surroundings were perfect, the games were exciting and every player had a “glad I participated feeling.” That year, all the proceeds from the event were donated to the City Parks Foundation. The ultimate recognition of the tournament’s quality came when the Mayor’s Cup became an USA Softball sanctioned event.
Moreover, YSA aided Lorelei Enterprises when they presented the Randall’s Island Softball Tournament, a three-day corporate tournament. More than 40 teams were entered by New York City businesses and corporations with the goal of increasing public awareness of Randall and Ward’s Island recreational possibilities. The tournament raised funds to improve and restore recreational facilities so there would be a place for all to play. YSA also sponsored the CUNY Athletic Conference Basketball tournaments. YSA’s expertise and proficiency makes them the premier resource for groups who need help with management of sports tournaments and leagues.
Around 2000, YSA was approach by a future basketball powerhouse in the city. They stopped by the office and simply said, “We want to do what you do." Al was impressed with their candidness and honesty and was happy to give them advice and direction. Three or four seasons later, they had done such an incredible job that Al approached and offered them his gyms and basketball teams. YSA wanted to focus on what they knew best and were most passionate about — baseball and softball. Thanks to Al’s generosity and guidance, the city now had another high quality, independent adult sport league.
The success of YSA’s events encouraged other cities, companies, and new businesses to increase public awareness and grow. New corporate leagues started popping up around New York and larger cities across the country like Chicago’s Sport and Social Club.
During the mid-90s YSA and Al played an instrumental role in the creation of a revolutionary customized sport scheduling program through LeagueLink, which later became Active.com, one of the largest sports software companies in the U.S. LeagueLink/Active took league and tournament management to a whole new level. With Al’s expertise and input they were the first to create a customized online recreational sports league scheduling program.
YSA honed its league management skills and shared them with the NYC Parks and Recreation department. When the department asked Al for help with permit procedures, he provided the outline for their current system and recommended that they set up a waiting room so permit staff would not have a half dozen permit applicants demanding and complaining in a totally chaotic and highly stressful atmosphere, preventing anything from getting done effectively.
When the Parks Department needed help updating their website, Al recommended Active.com who created a new site for them.
YSA and Parks effectively partnered to benefit the lives of those who participate in recreational sports while enhancing the quality of life and NYC’s parks. In 2003 YSA became a New York City vendor, administering softball leagues with and for the Parks Department. In three seasons YSA made half a million dollars for the city.
Corporations playing with YSA for those three seasons offered glowing reviews to the city about YSA’s management of their leagues and ability to schedule and solve team issues, in the hopes that YSA could continue to be the city’s resource for league management. The Parks Department ultimately decided to discontinue issuing RFPs for league management and eventually took a larger role in allocating field permits.
Since YSA was so knowledgeable about the city’s parks and about scheduling games, the Parks Department asked them to be a part of the advisory council taking on the daunting task of renovating Central Park’s Great Lawn and North Meadow. The group offered suggestions about what improvements should be made to improve fields and open space to make them the best in the city to play sports as well as take a stroll.
YSA suggested that teams normally playing on those fields should be allocated replacement fields throughout the city during the construction, with the goal of making the disruption caused by the renovations as painless as possible for all users. The suggestion was adopted.
YSA’s contributions to the city’s parks did not end with advice and cooperation. Al is a firm believer in increasing funding and donating to make the parks better for everyone. In the 80s and 90s, a portion of all YSA league fees were allocated to the Parks Department and proceeds from the Mayor’s Cup were donated to the City Parks Foundation. In the early 90s, when the parks department was facing a huge fiscal crisis due to budget cuts, YSA organized a letter writing campaign asking the city to increase funding to the parks department and encouraged the businesses participating in league sports to donate to parks. The response was overwhelming, with many businesses donating and writing to say how much recreational sports meant to their company.
In 2001, YSA donated $15,000 to help provide uniforms and equipment for youth leagues in all five boroughs and to help fund the Fourth Annual City Wide Youth Softball Tournament. Ten years later when the Parks Department was facing a similar crisis, YSA went to bat for the parks again. Al was asked by Parks Commissioner Stern to testify at the City Council hearing on behalf of the parks. Al testified that donations to the City Parks Foundation should not be pooled into the city’s general fund, but should go directly to beautifying and benefiting the city parks, just as it was intended.
Al and YSA continue to advocate for all sports, always advocating for treatment of parks with care and respect. They stay involved in every way they can to help improve fields and the park experience, from reporting malfunctioning field lights to repairing damaged AstroTurf and unsafe conditions. They also prepare fields for play, benefitting all users.
YSA continues to lobby for a better system to identify idle and underutilized fields and to promote fair and transparent permit allocation. They are aware of idle fields and locations that can be identified for new fields when they are actually needed. YSA believes the solution is to develop a better tracking system, as was done when the Active team came in with the first permitting system, that will identify open time slots. Al has offered several times to help set it up along with a maintenance system for existing fields that will improve the playing experience for all users.
Al has a background in counseling and arbitration which helps him, and by extension YSA, get things done while making sure everyone gets what they need or gets as close as possible.
It was in the spirit of cooperation that Al founded the United Athletic Association (UAA) in 1998. This group brought together sports organizations and leagues from all over the city, working with the Department of Parks and Recreation to properly utilize all the public resources for adult and youth sport organizations while promoting sports in the city.
In 2001 when the growing demand actually created field shortage issues, Al suggested that they create additional time slots and the 5:30 time slot was born, giving hundreds more players a chance to participate.
A large part of the YSA difference is that they are always looking to solve problems and offer concrete solutions, not just complain about things. For years prior to the reconstruction and turf installation at Dewitt Clinton, the field conditions were a serious problem and maintenance was lacking. After a heavy day of rain the fields became unusable for days.
Though YSA leagues only plays two nights out of seven in the spring and summer, Al and his big black truck dragged the field for many seasons and made them playable for everyone.
To solve the issue with double booked fields, YSA offered to help set up a reliable online registration and management system. When they didn’t receive a response from the Permit Department, Al met with the then commissioner and a city council member to get the ball rolling. YSA and UAA conducted an analysis of the problems with the Parks Department permit process and presented their findings to the commissioner who committed to developing it. The premise was that a shift in focus was needed to include other developing and expanding sports and make equal time for all.
UAA applauded the Park Department’s willingness to accept help from organizations that actually use the fields. All the hard work made a difference and though they began to see improvements, YSA and UAA members didn’t stop pushing for better field conditions — a problem that remains to this day. The UAA has become the go-to organization for advocating for better playing conditions and additional time slots throughout the city.
Through it all, Al has worked through his business to provide valuable service and a positive influence to our youth and adult community. He once said, “I have a particular place in my heart for young people who are having a difficult time, and feel strongly that involvement in sports builds unity, trust and serves to promote good mental and physical health.” In this spirit, Al, YSA and UAA have donated, and continue to donate, time and money to many youth organizations, including the Police Athletic Association (PAL), Youth Service Leagues, Harlem RBI (now Dream), Talbot Perkins Children’s Services Mentoring Program and the Yorktown Athletic Club (YAC). YSA has also donated to Murray Bergtraum High School to improve sports fields and provided equipment for multiple sports. They were a part of an internship program with the school that allowed students to gain valuable work experience.
In 1994, Al began his own youth sports program, The Recreational and Cultural Society (TRACS) for youth. It provided NYC’s underprivileged children the opportunity to participate in team sports at no cost, in exchange for volunteer hours at community senior citizens’ programs. YSA league fees helped fund and support TRACS. The program, which was featured in ParentGuide magazine, started with a 16-team softball league and also sponsored a little league baseball team in Spanish Harlem. Eventually, local community programs were able to take over running of the leagues. YSA is happy that a few new adult leagues have adopted the idea and are committed to giving children an outlet for their time and energy which keeps them out of trouble, teaches them leadership and allows them to be part of a community.
In the early 90s Graham-Windham approached Al for help setting up a volleyball clinic for young women in a group home who were interested in volleyball. He came through, not only providing court time, but also a coach. Graham-Windham was very grateful, and thanked Al and YSA for their help, saying the clinic created a greater sense of pride and self-esteem in the girls and they had a more positive outlook on life. Throughout the years, Al has donated tens of thousands of dollars and equipment to youth teams and organizations. He has a strong sense of community and a deep commitment to helping those in need anyway he can and he uses sports as his tool.
YSA brought its special sense of community to Yorktown Heights in 1994. Donating and sponsoring adult and youth basketball and softball teams, they have become an important part of the community, with staff and Al participating in numerous Yorktown community events, and donating to youth advocacy programs such as D.A.R.E. YSA continues its work in NYC with corporate leagues and community sports, as well as advocating for more fields and better playing conditions.
Over the years, Al and YSA have made many connections that are beneficial to the teams, leagues and communities he works with. They are well-versed in the politics of league management, constantly cutting through the red tape to get things done, while maintaining an open heart and mind to the underprivileged and underserved. Through unyielding persistence, caring for the community, advocacy and love sports, YSA has become the MVP of its field.
YSA has been committed to our city, working with the Parks Department for decades, but recently we've been faced with a number of challenges. Please visit our petition page for the scoop and to help preserve access to NYC parks for softball and baseball players.