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Firm helps St. Mary's team dress for success

August 16, 1997

By SAMANTHA KRULEWITZ

Staff Writer

St. Mary's American Little League All-Stars expected to lose to South Mountain in the state title competition at Hagerstown's Staley Field on Aug. 1.

When they won, they faced an even bigger challenge: uniforms.

"We had been told the state provides uniforms, but when we opened up the packet late Friday night we found out that they didn't," said John Roth, coordinator and treasurer for the league.

"We wanted to do it with class - it was an important next step psychologically to pull off new jerseys," said Roth, whose son plays on the St. Mary's team.

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Roth said he talked to Jay Stouffer, district coordinator in Hagerstown. Stouffer called Mel Helman, owner of New Horizon Sportswear in Hagerstown, on Saturday morning, Aug. 2.

At 8:30 a.m., coaches and manager were picking out fabrics and designs at the shop.

"The team was leaving at 3 a.m. Monday morning to go to Bristol, Conn., for the regional tournament. The team took pictures with the old uniforms and then went to Bristol," he said. "We presented the team with the new jerseys and told them that it was a token of appreciation for what they had done."

Roth said the 14 new red satin uniforms were paid for by contributions from the community and the league. They cost $500 total and each has the player's name printed on the back.

Helman said he's never made baseball uniforms with that fabric, which usually is used for basketball.

At the regional tournament, the broadcasters voted unanimously that St. Mary's had the best looking uniforms, he said.

"It was a psychological lift. All of their eyes sparkled when they were handed the new uniforms," Roth said. "Their old uniforms were three-button-down pullovers without their names. They'll remember these uniforms forever."

Roth said they would not have come as far as they have without Mel Helman's help.

"Mel threw in an extra jersey for good luck with no one's name on it and we'll probably frame it," he said.

"It's meant a lot to us to have the support of Mel and the South Mountain community. It's going to be a tough ball game and we need all of Maryland pulling for us," he said.

Helman said he and his employee Hilda Shook sewed the uniforms together by hand all day Sunday and Monday so they would be ready by 5 p.m. Tuesday. When Roth and others picked them up Tuesday evening, Helman told the team they were lucky uniforms and that they'd win a big one.

"Everything so far including the uniforms are pure luck," Helman said. "The boys think it's the uniforms and I do too. This is the highlight of my career. We sewed and sewed and sewed and finally got them done and we were proud of it."

Roth has called Helman's shop every night to tell him that night's game results. Thursday night's message was full of infectious excitement.

"I don't know if you believe in miracles, but this team has just won the semi-finals," Roth said on the answering machine. "I think it's the most amazing ... Every game is more amazing than the game before. I'm still in shock."

The team faces the Pennsylvania champion, which has only given up one run the entire tournament, at 4 p.m. today. The game will be shown on ESPN 2, and the winner will represent the Eastern Region in the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"Every game has been a nail-biter, a magical experience," Roth said. "We saw the pictures of the Eastern Region uniforms for the World Series and said, `Oh my God, they're red, too.'"

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