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West End Little League rallies to help victims of fire

April 06, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com

When a Thursday morning fire struck 12-year-old Malik Fall’s Lanvale Street home in Hagerstown’s West End, he was so overwhelmed, he didn’t know what to think.

Then, the reality began to sink in, in specific and practical ways. For one, Malik realized he wouldn’t be able to take part in Saturday’s West End Little League season-opening celebration and games.

Though playing in Little League has been a tradition for Malik and his brother, Shamere Washington, 10, since they were 5, the two lost all of their baseball equipment in the fire.

Meanwhile, West End Little League coaches Steve Dillinger and Tim Whittington were covering their bases, contacting members of Malik’s VFW and Shamere’s AFL-CIO teams for a get-together to support and encourage the brothers.

On Friday, the two teams gathered for a pizza party under the pavilion at Hellane Park, where the league plays. Coaches, players and parents brought not only baseball equipment, but donations of clothes, money and gift cards for the brothers.

Baseball-training facility Extra Innings-Hagerstown also donated equipment, which allowed Malik and Shamere to take part in Saturday’s festivities. Donated items included bats, gloves and cleats.

“It feels good that everyone came to try to cheer us up like that, to keep us positive and help us hold our heads up,” Malik said. “If not for both of the teams, we would not be here now. All our baseball equipment was gone.”

Dillinger, who is Shamere’s coach, said parents planned to hand buckets around the bleachers Saturday during games to raise additional funds.

“This is about everybody coming together. It’s bigger than baseball,” he said. “We want to see what we can gather for them, to help the family out. Anything we can do. We are like a family, we really are.”

The boys’ mother, Verneice Washington, said her sons love baseball and she was grateful they could play Saturday.

“They grew up with these kids here. This lightens things up, brightens them up,” she said. “It takes their minds off what happened when they can still get out there and play with their friends. It makes me feel warm inside.”

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