Rec Department Drops Ball In Promoting Youth Sports

SIDELINES

August 16, 1991|By Pat O'Malley

More and more people are asking why the county Recreation and Parks Department doesn't get more involved in promoting youth sports on a larger scale.

The bottom line is that the Rec and Parks Department under Director Joe McCann does not promote anything bigger than the community-level programs. That doesn't please everyone, especially those in baseball and softball who are involved in national organizations.

It just might be time for a change in leadership.

The people who work under McCann and run the various athletic programs do just the bare minimum with coaches associations doing most of the work.

Not everybody is content with playing just neighborhood ball, and those who are not are taxpayers just like the others. I think that CountyExecutive Bob Neall needs to take a close look at what is going on in the Rec and Parks Department and ask why it is not serving all constituents.

Let me explain what I'm talking about.

Recently the Continental Amateur Baseball Association 18-and-under Baseball World Series was in Anne Arundel County with many of the showcase games at the new Joe Cannon Baseball Stadium. The event was given little or no support by Rec and Parks.

The Amateur Softball Association Women's18-and-under National Fast Pitch Tournament, with 70 teams from 35 states, wasbrought to Maryland by local Tangerine Machine coaches Tom Conley and Joe Kisser. It was played in Howard County for lack of facilities in Anne Arundel.

I find that embarrassing.

A fee was charged for the use of the new Cannon Stadium this year, and that was mishandled, with one of the biggest contributors, the 30-and-over Men's Baseball League, getting the short end of the stick despite pouringnearly $2,000 into the county kitty.

The CABA brought in 16 teamsfrom all over the country. Other than a marvelous job turned in by stadium supervisor Don Brooks and his staff at Cannon, the county did little.

As a member of the committee to design Cannon Stadium, I understood that the super facility was being constructed so that Anne Arundel finally could play host to regional and national tournaments.What we committee members didn't realize was that the county Rec andParks Department would have little to do with it.

It's been the philosophy during the McCann regime to put people on their own by forming coaches associations to do the work of the Rec Department employees who are paid by our tax dollars. Believe me, the concept has worked in the Rec Department's favor because those athletic supervisors don't do nearly as much as the volunteer coaches and organizers.

In the case of the CABA Tournament, it was Lew Holmes, the president of the Anne Arundel Amateur Baseball Association, who organized and ran the major event. McCann came out one day and threw out a ball, and that was the extent of the county Rec and Parks involvement.

Of course, the county did find time to draw up a bill for about $700 for useof Cannon Stadium. While many other cities and counties throughout the country have their rec and parks departments run national tournaments and get actively involved, Anne Arundel's got involved only in sticking its hand out.

Charging Holmes a fee to use that stadium forsuch a great event is absurd.

Joe Cannon of Laurel, for whom the stadium is named, took issue with remarks I made along those lines ina recent column.

He wrote that, "in these times of economic hardship, the county does not have the additional funds to come to his rescue (Holmes). The taxpayers and a majority of the coaches would not want the resources currently allocated to the county teams to be reduced inorder to fund tournaments featuring out-of-area teams."

But Holmes did not want a monetary handout, just support from the county.

"I don't want the county to give me money, nor for them to lose money," said Holmes. "I want them to make money, and all I asked them was to promote the tournament.

"We need to promote Cannon Stadium, but as of now we are not getting any publicity support from the county government and Rec and Parks."

Holmes says that Euclid, Ohio, has played host to CABA tournaments that have meant as much as $80,000 to the town, and he suggests that County Executive Neall organize a stadium commission to promote Cannon Stadium. Such a commission could promote other tournaments as well but would differ severely from McCann's out-of-touch philosophy.

"We held the ASA Women's National inHoward County because we don't have the facilities in Anne Arundel to do it," said Conley.

"The county has Upton Park for softball, but it's not big enough, and you have to fight the county like crazy toget it. At Centennial Park in Howard, they had seven lighted fields,four at one field and three at another facility about one mile away."

Upton was built with only three fields and not much parking room.

Conley and Kisser traveled out of town to bid for the national tournament against, in many cases, rec and parks departments from other cities.

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