Democracy and dugouts

Hundreds of parents and volunteers combine to make the Canfield Baseball Club a model of excellence.
CANFIELD -- On Independence Day, the most patriotic of our holidays, it's fitting to reflect on some of the traditions and customs which unify all Americans.
Families, the flag, fireworks, picnics, parades and baseball -- the game which most easily symbolizes the things that make America great -- quickly come to mind as important parts of our national fabric.
It's been said that to understand America, one should study baseball. It's the game that unifies fathers and sons, the sport which relies on volunteers and parents to bring Little League players together.
The Canfield Baseball Club is a model of baseball excellence, a program put together by hundreds of parents and volunteers working for one common good -- the entertainment and enjoyment of many youth.
McCune Park: The Canfield Baseball Club was incorporated in 1961 and uses a 40-acre tract of land called McCune Park on Shields Road, just north of Route 46. The park is named for Ray McCune's family that donated the land.
The nine diamonds take up 27 acres and 13 more acres have been left wooded.
All fields have fences and dugouts. One diamond has lights.
This season, there have been 62 teams and about 800 players ages 5-17 using the complex.
Those numbers have been steady for the last few years and represent a healthy turnout in a community of 14,000, according to Gary Williams who has served as the club president since 1994.
"I just love the kids, I love the community," Williams said. "I think it's the greatest thing going for the area. I think the youth in the area brings out the best in the people in the valley."
The board of directors has 24 members, each with an assigned area or duty. It's their combined effort that produces the fine finished product.
Volunteers: But Williams is just one of a score of dedicated volunteers who coordinate the games. Behind the scene, there is always plenty of work to do at a baseball park.
On one recent evening, a walk around the complex found many individuals who share their time pulling everything together.
Sharon Hartsock is the Coordinator of Game Activities, a polite way of saying she handles the scheduling of the teams. There's 62 teams playing 16 games each on the nine fields in a space of two months.
The initial schedule is computer generated.
Then it rains.
And rains.
Then the rain-out schedule needs prepared.
This year, the 11-12 softball division played inter-league games with the Boardman league, allowing different faces on the schedule. Hartsock coordinates that, too.
Budget: George Bellish, a Certified Public Accountant, has been the club treasurer for three years. His budget is nearly $100,000 a year. Some small villages have yearly budgets not a whole lot larger.
How efficiently is the league run? Over the 40 years it's been in existence, they have never had to borrow any money. The word mortgage does not exist in their vocabulary.
Boys and girls pay $60 each which goes to their uniform, balls, umpires and awards. There is a batting barn that can be used 12 months a year by players.
Other area communities now hope to build such a barn for their facilities.
The rest of the park expenses must be covered by sponsors and corporate sponsors.
Marcia Turocy is the Safety Director of the complex for the second year. The break-away bases, the yellow plastic tubing that covers the top of all the fences, the insurance coverage and the first-aid kits are her responsibility.
Concessions: The concession stand is operated by the Youngstown State University Hotel and Hospitality Management Program. YSU does all the work and pays a percentage to the field. And there's not just ballpark food here, either.
On the menu are shrimp cocktail ($8), cappuccino ($1.50), Hungarian peppers ($4), egg rolls ($2) and calamari ($5).
It's not unusual for spectators to call on their cell phones from a diamond and to order dinner which is delivered right from the concession stand during the course of a game.
The Construction Coordinator is Jim Novotny. There's new dugouts this year on six fields. Many parents helped to put on the shingle roofs.
Maintenance: Ray Melewski handles field maintenance. Expect to find him atop a $20,000 tractor cutting the outfield grass.
"We have an open Saturday we call a work day," Melewski said. "You get as many as eight people to 25 people."
There are four tractors and other equipment in a large barn on the property. There are also three young adults employed by the park to aid in keeping the diamonds in top shape.
On an idle field, a father offered hitting advice to his son. Batting practice quickly transcends baseball and became a lesson on life.
"You're moving too much," dad said. "We got to break the bad habits. Straighten your arms."
Memories: The time they spend hitting a ball into a fence now will become lasting memories when the slugger becomes a dad himself. Such is the nature of baseball.
Tom Banna brought decades of athletic participation to his duties of overseeing the umpires for the 9-12 baseball divisions. The umpires' efficient work is under his supervision.
"If you focus on it, you can get it done," Banna said.
A flyer asks families to get involved. "Volunteers are the backbone of the club," it reads.
"The baseball club is privately owned, thus we do not get money or workers from the township," it reads.
The feeling at the park is they have a corporation, run by the 800 kids. This is the free enterprise system with baselines; democracy with dugouts.
With good vision, wise money management and plenty of dedicated volunteers the park works.
Sounds like America.

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