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Little League supports teams in Central America

September 20, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT -- This summer's phenomenal winning season enjoyed by the Conococheague Little League players and coaches didn't go to their heads -- it went to their hearts.

After a celebration parade Sunday afternoon through the town, team members and their adult supporters gathered in the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Co.'s rear parking lot for a picnic, courtesy of the fire company, Town of Williamsport and a local committee.

But the goal wasn't to pat themselves on the backs, but to show support for youngsters in Nicaragua and Venezuela who often have to play baseball with tree limbs and cardboard gloves.

"Cardboard 2 Leather" was started in 1992 after a Baltimore newspaper reporter returned from a trip to Central America and wrote about how enthusiastic, but needy, many youth baseball clubs were there.

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"In 2007, Oriole Advocates shipped 125 boxes of donated baseball equipment to Nicaragua," said Bob Harden, second vice president of the group. That translated into $167,000 worth of items.

Dedicated to promoting interest in baseball since 1960, Oriole Advocates saw the Cardboard 2 Leather project as a natural.

B.J. Ostrum's 10-year-old son, Hunter, was on one of the teams that won Maryland championships this summer. When she and others learned of the giveaway program, they got busy.

"We wanted to give back to other teams worldwide," Ostrum said. "We were so pleased when the Oriole Advocates picked a team for us."

Don Blum, chairman of the charitable foundation of Oriole Advocates, said this year, teams in Nicaragua and Venezuela were chosen.

Blum and Harden journeyed to Williamsport Sunday for the celebration, where many parents showed up clutching bats, gloves and helmets for the collection. Both said it was well worth the trip.

Conococheague Little League President Walter Williams said the summer of 2009 was the best year ever in league history. Riding in a vintage convertible in the parade, Williams thanked the fire company and the town for their efforts.

"Brandy Osborne and a lot of families also came together to make this possible," Williams said.

This summer, two Conococheague teams won state championships, while other teams took first runner-up spots in district competitions.

"It's been an exciting year at all five levels of all-star teams," Osborne said.

Jay Grimes, fire company president, and Will Ball, fire chief, and Williamsport Mayor James G. McCleaf II also attended the festivities Sunday.

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