Richard Zuber reflects on the growth of Pine Forge Athletic Association
“We have to do something right,” said Richard A. Zuber, president of the Pine Forge Athletic Association (PFAA), which supports more than 30 baseball and softball teams and 400 players.
“In fact, I can’t wait to share what we are doing this on purpose has attracted 20% more baseball and softball players this year. We are growing when other clubs are in decline. Our players represent 8 school districts in 3 counties: Boyertown, Pottstown, Upper Pottsgrove, Owen J. Roberts, Phoenixville, West Chester and Daniel Boone.
“I like to call our program ‘hybrid’,” he explained, “and I think that’s the reason for our success. We have something for everyone. We are more flexible. Our mission is to accommodate what kids need, not coaches or parents, to learn and love the game.
“The PFAA is not a recreational league where all the kids learn to play and want to play ball a few times during the week but are, more or less, casual players,” Zuber explained. “And the PFAA is not an AAU – an Amateur Athletic Union – an organization that requires substantial monetary investment – and is a highly competitive travel ball tournament every weekend across the country,” a- he continued.
“Various programs have been demanding for young players. They burned or lost the love of the game. We want PFAA players to have a life – working jobs, taking family vacations, or playing on their school-sponsored teams while they learn the game and compete,” he suggested.
“The downside of playing in an AAU is the cost. Due to travel costs – between $5,000 and $10,000 – per summer, attending an AAU is often not available to talented players.
“The PFAA takes the best of both worlds: our Babe Ruth senior baseball teams have a regular season and play multiple games during the week, but also participate in a “Tournament Trail” where players compete in district championships, in state-level competitions, mid-Atlantic competitions and a World Series playoff. And – just to give credit – Babe Ruth’s senior PFAA team has won their way to Mid-Atlantic contests 4 out of 5 seasons. Our players have talent and we are determined to make it to the World Series…and win it too! Zuber exclaimed.
“Our Junior Babe Ruth teams also participated in the Tournament Trail; Both 15U and 14U teams played in the PA State Tournament. Little League teams have also played in Cal Ripken State Tournaments,” he said.
“And I’m proud to mention that we have ‘Cadillac’ courts for kids to learn and play on — 3 lighted courts — one in Pine Forge, one in Pottstown and one of 2 courts in Bally. And we’re playing on the Hill School varsity field.”
“Just a reminder: our softball program has been around for 30 years. We offer softball for ages 6-18. We have produced many softball players who have played at the high school and college levels. They also like to play on a lit court,” added Zuber.
Zuber’s involvement began over 30 years ago as a coach and president of the organization. He keeps two things front and center: learning the game and loving it. He says the first thing he asked the latest player, a young man from Texas, who wanted to join the program: “Do you like to play baseball?”
“I always tell young people that I’m crazy, crazy to be a coach after more than 30 years of involvement. But I love watching kids develop, and we all want to create cohesive teams. I sincerely believe that PFAA is the place to go to learn the game of baseball.
“Developing talent and creating cohesive teams are my goals as a coach and also as the owner of my real estate company,” he explained. Zuber owns Richard A. Zuber Realty, the area’s largest local real estate agency, and will celebrate 50 years as a licensed real estate agent in 2023.
“And although I’m crazy, it’s so rewarding every once in a while when a player joins our league after playing in other programs. One of my recent players said to me, “You made this game even more fun for me; I love coming to the baseball stadium. And so, how can I stop coaching when I know there are kids out there who need to fall in love with baseball again?” he concluded.
2022 youth baseball and softball season marks 52n/a year of the PFAA. The Association was run in 1970 by Merle Harner and Robert “Skip” Trainer, both of whom had children who wanted to play youth sports. Finding the Boyertown program to be overcrowded, Harner—a longtime resident of Douglass Township, Berks County, and retired union carpenter—and trainer—longtime resident of Douglass Township, Berks County, and former Township supervisor and retired salesman for Prudential Insurance – decided to form PFAA. Zuber succeeded Harner and Trainer and has been involved with the program for more than 30 years, first as a player, then a coach and now president.
The mission of the PFAA is to provide instruction in the fundamentals of the game of baseball and softball and to instill good sportsmanship, emphasizing opportunity to play. His freshman year consisted of one team and 12-15 players who played on a small field located at Pine Forge Elementary School. Today, PFAA games are played at numerous grounds in Douglass Township, Bally and Pottstown, including the Douglass Park complex and the Hill School. The association supports over 30 baseball and softball teams with over 400 players.