Long-running basketball league keeps focus on youth

NEIGHBORS

November 08, 1993|By CINDY PARR

Boom, boom, boom and swish, swish, swish are music to my ears. They are the wonderful sounds of my favorite sport: basketball.

The season is definitely upon us, as coaches and players from high schools and recreational programs all over Carroll County are out in force preparing for winter league play.

Longtime basketball enthusiast Larry Baker has wasted no time in helping to prepare for the 21st season of the St. John's Basketball League.

Touted as Carroll's first recreational league, St. John's continues to be one of Carroll County's largest and most successful basketball programs.

For many years, boys have spent their free time after school and on weekends playing basketball in the gym at St. John's Catholic Church in Westminster. Mr. Baker formed the league in 1972.

"When we started out, we had 36 kids who made up four teams," he said. "Now we have 40 intramural teams and two travel teams. Boys in kindergarten through ninth grade play in the league."

Mr. Baker and fellow coordinator Bo Yingling have been working together for more than two decades to run the league, which helps boys learn the game and improve their basketball skills.

"We have kids come out from all over the county to play in this league," said Mr. Baker of Westminster.

"It's a good program. Each kid gets to play half the game. We do not stress winning, we try to benefit the kids. We even have special rules for our younger kids."

Beginning in October and continuing through early March, more than 90 adults -- who volunteer their time as coaches -- join Mr. Baker and Mr. Yingling to make the program possible.

"We have really had some super coaches and people involved with this program. There has been a whole lot of help to make it a success," said Mr. Baker. "It's really been something. When I first started the program, no one else [in Carroll] had a program. Now there are programs all over the county."

The league is a self-supporting program that operates on money collected for registrations and at one fund-raising event a year.

"We just raised our registration fee for the first time to $20," Mr. Baker said. "This fee gives each boy the use of a uniform, a color team picture and a trophy at the end of the year."

The program has made an impression on its alumni, as many past players have returned to serve the league in various capacities.

"We have guys who went through the league as players and have come back to coach their sons," Mr. Baker said. "I, myself, had my three sons go through the program. Now, my middle son coaches with me and my grandsons are playing."

Mr. Baker says he would be connected with the league even if his son and grandsons were not involved.

"Watching the kids and seeing how much they enjoy playing basketball, and how much their parents and grandparents enjoy watching them, makes me want to keep doing it," he said.

*

The 20th annual Mistletoe Mart will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster.

The mart, which emphasizes Christmas shops, will include 35 vendors selling crafts, artwork and other handmade items.

The mart will be open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday an10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children under 12.

Information: 848-3251.

*

St. Matthews United Church of Christ will sponsor a fried oyster and turkey dinner at the Pleasant Valley Fire Hall from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

The cost is $9 for adults, $4 for children and $10 for carry-out.

Information: 848-5163.

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