If only our county had more politicians like state Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, and U.S. Representative Tom McMillen. The two havestepped forward to save Continental Amateur Baseball Association 18-and-under World Series tournament director Lew Holmes from financial ruin.
Wagner and McMillen, two men known for their generosity whenit comes to helping kids and youth groups, have agreed to co-sign a $10,000 loan, which will be paid off in four months with the help of a fund-raiser.
After getting very little help and support from the county government and its Recreation and Parks Department, Holmes stuck his neck out by bringing in 14 teams from all over the country and Korea for the 18-and-under tournament. He promised each $1,000.
County Recreation and Parks Director Joe McCann and County Executive Robert R. Neall left Holmes on his own to showcase the county and its superb new baseball facility, Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans.
Over the years, ithas become increasingly obvious that McCann is not into promoting youth sports beyond the intramural level, unless it means a chance for him to bask in the spotlight. His idea of recreation sports is building parks and forgetting that they have to be maintained.
It's not that way elsewhere, as many of us who have traveled to other states for tournaments have learned.
After visiting Birmingham, Ala., for a Dizzy Dean 11-12 World Series last week and seeing what can be doneby people serving as hosts of a tournament, I find it hard to believe that more can't be done locally to help Holmes.
In Mountain Brook, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham, the Kazmarek Little Orioles were oneof eight out-of-town teams entered in the series. Host Mountain Brook and neighbor Gardendale were the only teams not requiring lodging.
It was a marvelously well-organized and well-run tournament, with housing and meals provided by the Mountain Brook committee. The teamsstayed free of charge at the Holiday Inn in Birmingham, with four players in each room.
Vouchers for breakfast, lunch and dinner (drinks and extras had to be paid for) were given to the players and coaches each tournament day.
In addition, Mountain Brook team mothers provided a laundry service for the visitors.
Upon arrival, the teams were met by a friendly welcoming committee that included Dizzy DeanState Director Bill Posey Sr. Each team was given a bag of souvenirs.
On the first night, a banquet took place in the Mountain Brook High School cafeteria, with Mayor William M. Given Jr., Alabama Hall of Fame Director Bill Legg, former Auburn All-American and San Diego Charger Mike Fuller and Alabama baseball coach Barry Shollenberger.
They even gave away prizes -- equipment bags and sports apparel -- at the conclusion of the banquet.
Opening Day was kicked off by a gala ceremony that included a moving patriotic medley sung by Paige Sutton, the third runner-up and talent winner in this year's Miss Alabama pageant.
Everything was done first-class, and the games were played in an excellent baseball complex at Mountain Brook that gave thekids a taste of pro baseball for a few days.
Holmes and company have tried to match that hospitality this week, with one big difference between here and what goes on in all Dizzy Dean World Series' and other national tournaments.
What allows the other tournaments to operate in first-class fashion is a commitment from the business community, parents, the recreation and parks departments and the county governments. Such support lifts the financial burden from the volunteer tournament committee.
But here, Holmes faces a personal financial responsibility because the county and business community haven't pitched in.
Holmes' mistake was that he put faith in the county to do everything to make Anne Arundel look first-class. The county looks good on the outside, thanks to the debt Lew owes on the inside.
The county Recreation and Parks Department has done little,no more. But that's to be expected.
McCann and Superintendent Don Ruland do not encourage events such as the World Series and national tournaments.
Those of us, including Holmes, who served on the committee to design the state-of-the-art Joe Cannon Stadium were led to believe that its construction would bring national and regional tournaments here. Inorder to do so, the county Recreation and Parks and the government would have to get involved.
We assumed too much because the county is not interested. And we should have known, judging by its track record.
McCann and Ruland have never caught up with the times and thedesire of youth teams to be in regional and national tournaments. They feel that summer youth baseball should consist of 12 to 13 games spread over three months in leagues where teams pay preseason fees fortwo umpires and usually get one or none.
Their department is so lacking that they couldn't handle 16-and-under and 18-and-under baseball and asked Holmes, the very guy they're letting out to dry, to takeit over.