Williamsport halts its legion baseball program

January 18, 2004|by MARK KELLER

It appears Williamsport's loss will ultimately be Funkstown's gain, at least in the world of American Legion baseball.

Officials at Williamsport Post 202 have decided not to field a baseball team for the 2004 season, leaving Funkstown Post 211 as the only legion baseball team in Washington County.

The decision to fold the team was made Tuesday at a meeting of the Post 202 executive board. Coach Rick Keefer was informed of the decision Wednesday.

Keefer said the post decides on a year-to-year basis whether the team will receive funding.

"I approached the officers because it was getting to be that time of year and they decided they would not be able to do it financially this year," Keefer said.


Bob Nicodemus, a member of the executive board, said there were several reasons Williamsport would not field a team, but admitted that money was one of the chief factors.

Nicodemus estimated the cost of fielding a team at $20,000-$30,000, which includes insurance, equipment, uniforms, facility rental, umpires and travel expenses.

"The cost involved is just getting too high at this point," Nicodemus said. "We don't have a way to raise money to help with the cost of supporting the team."

A Basket Bingo to benefit the baseball team is scheduled for Jan. 25 at the legion. It was not known if that event will be held.

The legion was looking at an increase in the amount needed to field its baseball team. Last August, the Washington County Board of Education approved a $3 per hour fee on all groups using school fields. The fee was instituted so that the school system would break even on maintenance costs.

Post 202 played its games at Williamsport High School and, according to Williamsport High baseball coach Rod Steiner, had always assisted in maintenance on the field.

"I don't think the fee for the field went over very well with the membership," Keefer said. "The legion had given scholarships and put a lot of money into upgrading the field and they just decided they didn't have the funds to do it."

Funkstown coach Darryl Powell said umpire fees are also rising this season, going from $55 to $60 per umpire for a single game and $50 to $55 per umpire for each game of a doubleheader.

"The umpire fees are going up and now the rent of the ball field," Nicodemus said. "All of that got to be a factor."

Williamsport's withdrawal makes Powell's team the only legion game in town, something that leaves Powell with mixed emotions.

"I'm sad because they're folding, but happy because I think it could be a good thing for the area," Powell said. "It will make our team basically an all-star team of the 18 best players in Washington County. And it's going to push more of the kids who aren't playing legion ball to the Colt League and help them to get stronger."

Keefer will be working as an assistant coach for Scott Jennings - a former Post 202 coach - at Hagerstown Community College in the spring. He said he still plans to be involved with legion baseball, possibly with Powell at Funkstown.

"Regardless of what anyone knows about me, I'm in it for the kids," Keefer said. "The biggest disappointment for me will be to see any of our kids get left out.

Nicodemus did not rule out the eventual return of Post 202 to the legion baseball circuit.

"Who's to say? Down the road next year, two years from now, we could get back in it," Nicodemus said. "If we can do it, it would be great."

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