Pine Forge Athletic Association ends 52nd winning season

The Pine Forge Athletic Association recently wrapped up its 52nd baseball and softball seasons, celebrating its teams winning championships and growing membership.

The association was founded in 1970 by Douglas Township, Berks County residents Merle Harner, a retired carpenter, and Robert “Skip” Trainor, a former township supervisor and retired Prudential Insurance salesman. Both had children who wanted to play youth sports. After discovering that the Boyertown program was overcrowded, Harner and Trainor decided to form the PFAA. Richard A. Zuber then took over as president of Harner & Trainer. In all, Zuber has been involved with the program for more than 30 years, first as a player, then as a coach and now as president.

His first year consisted of one team and 12 to 15 players playing on a small field at Pine Forge Elementary School. Today, PFAA games are played at numerous venues throughout the city of Douglas, Bally and Pottstown, including the Douglas Park Complex and Hill School.

For the second year in a year, the Pine Forge Athletic Association 14u team finished first in the 2022 Berks League season. (Courtesy of PFAA)

The association supports more than 30 baseball and softball teams and 400 players representing eight school districts in three counties — Boyertown, Pottstown, Upper Pottsgrove, Owen J. Roberts, Phoenixville, West Chester and Daniel Boone. Among the wins this season: the Senior Babe Ruth team won the 2022 state championship, the 14u team took first place in the 2022 Berks League season for the second year, and the 12u Tribe team finished their season with another championship win.

The Pine Forge Athletic Association 12u Tribe team finished their season with another championship win.  (Courtesy of PFAA)
The Pine Forge Athletic Association 12u Tribe team finished their season with another championship win. (Courtesy of PFAA)

“We must be doing something right,” said Zuber, the president Pine Forge Athletic Association, in release. “In fact, I’m excited to share what we’re doing intentionally that has resulted in 20% more baseball and softball players this year. We are growing when other clubs are in decline.”

Zuber likes to call its program a hybrid.

“I think that’s the reason for our success,” Zuber said. “We have something for everyone. We are more flexible. Our mission is to meet the needs of the kids, not the coaches or parents, to learn and love the game.”

The association’s mission is to provide instruction in the fundamentals of baseball and softball and to instill good sportsmanship while emphasizing the possibilities of the game.

Zuber explained that the association is not a recreational league where all the kids are learning to play and want to play ball a few times a week, but are more or less casual players. Also, it’s not the Amateur Athletic Union, an organization that requires a significant financial investment — $5,000 to $10,000 per summer — and advocates highly competitive travel ball tournaments held every weekend around the country.

“Different programs have been demanding of young players. They have burned out or lost their love for the game. We want PFAA players to have a life — hold down a job, vacation with family or play on school-sponsored teams while they learn the game and compete,” Zuber said.

Zuber said the Pine Forge Athletic Association takes the best of both worlds. Babe Ruth senior baseball teams have a regular season and play several games during the week, but also participate in tournaments where players compete in district championships, state level competition, mid-Atlantic competition and the World Series playoffs.

“The Babe Ruth PFAA senior team has won its way to the mid-Atlantic competition four of five seasons. Our players have talent and we are determined to get to the World Series and win it too,” said Zuber.

Junior Babe Ruth teams also participated in the tournament; The 15U and 14U teams played in the PA state tournament. Little League teams also played in the Cal Ripken State Tournament.

“I’m proud to mention that we offer Cadillac courses for kids to learn and play on—three lighted courses—one in Pine Forge, one in Pottstown, and one of two courses in Bali. And we play on Hill School’s varsity field,” he said.

The association’s softball program has been in existence for 30 years and offers softball for ages 6-18.

“We’ve produced a lot of softball players that have played at the high school and college level. They also like to play on the lighted field,” Zuber said.

30 years with PFAA

Zuber’s involvement began more than 30 years ago as a coach and president of the organization. It keeps two elements front and center: learning the game and loving it. He shares that the first thing he asked the last player — a young man from Texas — who wanted to sign up for the program was, “Do you like to play baseball?”

“I always tell the kids I’m crazy, crazy to be a coach after 30-plus years of being involved. But I enjoy watching the kids develop and we all strive to build cohesive teams. I truly believe that the PFAA is the place to learn the game of baseball,” Zuber said.

Developing talent and building cohesive teams are his goals as a coach as well as owner of Richard A. Zuber Realty. 2023 marks his 50th year as a licensed Realtor.

“And while I’m crazy, every once in a while it’s great when a player joins our league after playing in other programs,” he said.

Zuber shares what one of his recent players told him: “You’ve made the game fun for me again; I love coming to the stadium.”

“So how can I stop coaching when I know there are kids out there who need to fall in love with baseball again?” Zuber concluded.

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