Working with his video production company over the last 10 years, Thomas Lydon is always on the lookout for a good story—a person, a family, a team, a neighborhood, anything that stands out.
However, a conversation last summer with his friend, Bill Leslie, got Lydon thinking about his next project: a documentary.
Lydon put the finishing touches this June on his four-part documentary, “Play Ball: the History of Ridge-Beverly Little League.”
“I’ve always been interested in storytelling, in capturing and preserving stories and photos,” Lydon said. “Everyone has a story. My goal was to make this documentary almost like a Ken Burns documentary with a mixture of photos, videos and interviews.”
“Play Ball” is available on YouTube.
The documentary is divided into four segments with a combined running time of 134 minutes.
Lydon, a 57-year-old Orland Park resident, grew up in Beverly and attended St. Barnabas Elementary School and Mt. Carmel High School.
Meeting up with Leslie last August to settle a bet, a Janson’s hot dog the prize, the topic of Ridge-Beverly baseball and its history came up.
From there, Lydon dove in head first.
He dug through archives at The Beverly Review, talked to former coaches, players and league organizers, and the documentary slowly but surely started to take shape.
Many of the interviews were conducted at Beverly Park, the longtime home of the league.
“I ended up interviewing 24 people,” Lydon said. “My first interview was last August, and I wanted to go from the beginning [the 1950s] and then bridge the gap in league history from the 1960s and 1970s through the 2000s and what is going on today.”
Lydon’s research showed that Ridge-Beverly baseball’s first season started in 1954. The league went through its fair share of ups and downs, even narrowly avoiding going under in the early 1970s with low turnout.
However, Ridge-Beverly baseball lived on through a rollercoaster history.
“When Bill said it, I thought ‘Wow! What a great idea!’” Lydon said. “It was such a good story to tell. There is so much negative out there in the world, but this was a good league run by good people. It was teaching kids about more than just baseball. It was teaching about the community and teamwork and playing together.”
Lydon thanked Garden Center Services and the Greater Chicago Food Depository for assistance in the filmmaking process.
Ridge-Beverly’s numbers have taken a hit in recent years as many young players opt to join a travel league and its growing popularity.
As a staple of the community, Lydon said, Ridge-Beverly hopefully has plenty more seasons down the road.
“Talking to people about the league, you hear how important it is and was for the community,” Lydon said. “There was that love for the league from the kids, coaches and families. It makes the community stronger. It was interesting to hear all the different perspectives of people talking about the league 30 and 40 years later. Eyes lit up reminiscing about the league.”