Sixteen teams took part in the city’s baseball league last year.
By ANGIE SCHMITT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — West Side resident Victor Morales, 45, is one of the unsung heroes who make a difference in the lives of dozens of city residents, says Ricky S. George of the Mayor’s Task Force on Crime and Violence Prevention.
For his years of service in inner-city athletics, Morales will be honored today with a mayor’s proclamation.
Despite a time-consuming battle with kidney failure, Morales has been running the city’s baseball league for 17 years. Meanwhile, the father of six has juggled three weekly dialysis sessions with coaching football and basketball at the Salvation Army, said George, chairman of the task force’s executive board.
“A lot of times in the summer you’ll see him out there on the field,” George said. “He’s getting these kids involved, and if it wasn’t for him, they’d probably be hanging out on the streets.”
Morales was nominated for the honor by his brother, Jose Morales, a Youngstown police detective.
“I’m proud of him,” said Jose Morales. “When he was really young, he had really bad high blood pressure, and I think the medication they give him really messed his kidneys up. But that doesn’t stop him.”
Victor was in the hospital Wednesday, being treated for an infection. Upon his release, he went directly to the Salvation Army, where basketball games were being played.
“I know these kids are going to be there,” he said. “So, somebody has to be there for them.”
Victor Morales has been managing the city’s baseball league since 1991. That year, he signed his nieces and nephews up to play ball. But a coach shortage threatened to sideline the children.
Morales wouldn’t allow it. He signed on as the team’s coach that season.
“We lost all 16 games,” he said. “But we had a great time doing it. I’ve been coaching there ever since.”
But maintaining the league has been a struggle. Morales said he has trouble attracting sponsors. Each year, he ends up supplementing the league’s treasury to make ends meet, he said.
Several years ago, when Morales was too sick to participate, the league struggled and eventually shut down. But baseball was back again last year with 16 teams. About 200 children took part, Morales said.
His responsibility to the city’s youth is what keeps him active, Morales said.
“I’m tired of seeing kids getting buried,” he said. “I’d rather see them on the field doing something.”
Now, the city is looking into expanding the baseball program, with help from the Mahoning- Youngstown Community Action Partnership, said Jason Whitehead, chief of staff/secretary to the mayor and the city’s interim park director.
Morales “has, for a number of years, through his own ingenuity, put together a league,” Whitehead said. “If we can target another niche group of young people, and get them into a productive environment, with mentors, the coaches, we hope that would go a long way toward improving our quality of life.”
Sign-ups for the Youngstown Park Baseball League begin Feb. 9 at the Salvation Army, 1501 Glenwood Ave. Registration will be from 1 to 4 p.m. there each Saturday through March. The league is also seeking sponsors. For more information call Morales at (330) 270-5720 or (330) 398-5772.