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Ruth Ann V. Monroe Summer Basketball League off to energetic start

Participant in event says it is important for the community because it brings people together

June 16, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • The local band OTB performed Sunday afternoon at Wheaton Park for the kickoff of the Ruth Ann V. Monroe Summer Basketball League.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

The annual Ruth Ann V. Monroe Summer Basketball League has been a Wheaton Park tradition for decades.

Participants said the league in the park dates back to the 1970s, and they reminisced Sunday about the good times: the frozen Snickers bars, the horseshoe pits and the concerts that accompanied the hours of play on the basketball court.

“Great memories. Great memories,” said Wayne Mason, who moved to Hagerstown from Shepherdstown, W.Va., when he was 12 years old and spent many days hanging out in the park for tournaments.

“No drama. No fighting,” Mason said.

“Every day when we got out of school, this is where we ran to,” said Leon Goeins, pointing out where all the park’s attractions were over the years.

The Ruth Ann V. Monroe Summer Basketball League typically has opened around Father’s Day, but Sunday’s kickoff was special.

People grilled food in the park and a pair of rap performers took the stage, warming up the crowd for the band OTB. OTB, which stands for Off The Block, had a crowd waiting in anticipation as it wired up its equipment.

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Then the band launched into its version of rhythm and blues, much to the delight of spectators gathered around the stage in a gazebo.

The event followed Saturday’s rededication of the nearby Memorial Recreation Center, which now bears the name of Robert W. Johnson Community Center. Johnson, who was a teacher at an all-black school in the community center building, also was a coach and a Tuskegee airman.

The rededication drew about 150 people.

At Wheaton Park Sunday, the Ruth Ann V. Monroe Summer Basketball League was off to an energetic start.

To illustrate its popularity, Robert W. Johnson Community Center Executive Director Karen Cook talked about the sign-ups Sunday for the tournament.

Cook said at one point, there were eight teams signed up. Each team has 12 kids.

Cook said when she returned later Sunday, she learned that five more teams had been added.

“We need sponsors for T-shirts,” said Cook, laughing.

Kids participating in the basketball league, which was run by Monroe for years, range in age from 8 to 18 years old.

Before the start of the tournament Sunday, youths practiced, driving down the courts with their best shots while families relaxed in the park.

Larry Wiles of Hagerstown was among a large group grilling food at the back of the park. Wiles said his group consisted of friends and family members, and friends of the OTB band.

Wiles said the start of the league is an important event for the community because it brings people together and the league keeps kids out of trouble in the summer.

The league has seen several generations pass through its games.

Merrill Fuller, who plays bass in OTB, said he coached in the league. Then Fuller’s son played in the league and now his grandson plays.

“It’s just like it was yesterday,” Merrill said, recalling his involvement in the league. “Time goes so fast.”

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