There was recognition in 2004, when the league's 9-year-old All-Stars won the District 6 Ripken title. The league gained further accolades in 2005, when the Weehawken 10-year-olds made it to the District 6 finals, only to lose to Bayonne.
The development of the young players starts in the league's minor leagues, ages 7 through 9.
"It's where it all begins," said Ripken baseball coordinator Artie Strandberg, who completed his fourth season running the town's youth baseball organizations. "It's basically a non-competitive league. We focus on the fundamentals and teaching. We have no official statistics, no standings. We keep score of games, but in this league, there is no first place and no last place. It's just a chance for the kids to play."
The same can be said about the township's girls' softball program, for girls 10 and under. Under the leadership of Chris Verdon, the girls are also given a chance to learn without having the pressures involved with winning and losing.
More than 75 boys play in the Cal Ripken minor league program. Another 35 girls participate in the softball instructional league.
Food, glorious food Last Saturday, all of those boys and girls were treated to a free season-ending barbecue, courtesy of Weehawken Recreation and the Township Council.
At the barbecue, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner presented each child with a participation award for completing the season.
Strandberg had brought back the idea of having a season-ending cookout at Arricale Field two years ago, and it was met with resounding praise.
"We figured it was a good way to end the season," Strandberg said. "We have a pretty good turnout of kids for a small town. The kids just love to play and we really have a good staff of people who love to teach the kids the right way to play."
Strandberg credited the efforts of his assistant, Jim McCall, while Verdon receives assistance from John Dorman. Strandberg said that there were many parents and coaches who chipped in to help with the season-ending party that featured hamburgers, hot dogs, soda and treats.
"Our parents always chip in and lend a hand," Strandberg said. "We always get a lot of help."
Strandberg said that he thanked Chuck Barone and the Weehawken Recreation Department for their assistance all season long.
"Also Mayor Turner and the Town Council," Strandberg said. "None of this happens without them. This is my 15th year working with the kids, and they never have to worry about anything in terms of fields, equipment, getting things. They're taken care of, thanks to everyone in town."
And when the winning does matter, the kids are ready.
"The proof is in the pudding," Strandberg said. "I think we're doing pretty well for a small town. We can finally compete with the big dogs."