City Coaches, ADs pitch for return of JV baseball Budget woes leave sport on sideline for 2nd year

March 31, 1996|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

In April 1995, Edmondson baseball coach Tai Thompson said two of his players were arrested "between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m., when they would normally have been practicing" with his junior varsity squad.

But because of the city Department of Education's budget deficit, junior varsity baseball had been eliminated.

"It's a shame, because in a lot of situations in the city, it's sports that keep kids occupied, and keeps them out of trouble," said Thompson, a full-time probation officer.

During a preliminary budget session the same month the players were arrested, City Schools Superintendent Walter Amprey "promised to restore junior varsity baseball this year," according to then-city councilman Joe DiBlasi.

"But somewhere back in January, I heard that it wasn't going to be restored," said DiBlasi, now an assistant baseball coach at Cardinal Gibbons. "Those kids should be playing junior varsity baseball right now, but apparently, they aren't."

Reached at the school superintendent's office on Friday, chief of staff Jeannette Evans said: "He [Amprey] probably would have every intention of doing that [restoring baseball], but if you're aware of our budget situation, we had no funds for that at all. We just could not fund it this year."

"It was cut because of budget [problems]," said Don Williams, the city's coordinator of interscholastic sports and physical education.

During a city athletic directors meeting in the fall of 1994, then-assistant superintendent Maurice Howard introduced a plan that would take about $100,000 from each city school's athletic revenues to go toward the Department of Education's shortfall.

But that would have adversely affected most programs, said Poly AD Mark Schlenoff, whose budgets were already strapped.

Schlenoff's response was a letter, co-signed by principal Ian Cohen, suggesting that for one year the city drop two junior varsity sports that could be funded individually by each school.

Evans said Williams then asked athletic directors "for their ideas about areas of their program they could live without for the year."

Baseball and track were chosen.

"As chairman of the city's budget appropriations committee, I was unaware that junior varsity baseball had been removed," said DiBlasi. "I brought it to the attention of the mayor [Kurt Schmoke] and Amprey that I felt there was a definite need to fund and sustain that item. [Amprey] said they would, this year."

But there is no junior varsity baseball for the second straight year.

"I have 19 kids on varsity, and I'd normally have about as many on junior varsity," Thompson said. "But you can't keep them anymore because, riding the bench, the younger kids become discouraged and it's hard to keep them interested."

"The kids don't learn anything by sitting on the bench," said Schlenoff, Poly's varsity baseball coach. "There's a lot of teaching and instruction that goes on on JV that they just aren't getting. And once you've worn a varsity uniform, you can't go back down," to junior varsity.

Only City, Poly and Patterson, through a variety of fund-raising activities, have managed to field junior varsity teams. "We're limited, because of funds, in competition and scope [distance] of competition," said Patterson varsity coach Roger Wrenn, whose JV squad plays City and Poly twice, in addition to Gilman, St. Paul's and Lutheran.

Bull roasts, dances, candy sales and solicitations are just a few of the measures taken by Wrenn's athletic department to raise money.

But at City, varsity coach Bill Walker said "our [varsity] players still have to pay $5 each for hats and socks, and that doesn't really cover the cost, which is actually a few dollars more."

Thompson, referring to an athletic department "that is virtually broke," said he got donations from Wayne Mumby, a doctor, and Emma Givens, a mortgage lender.

"That money covered jerseys, and we all agreed to wear white pants, which the kids bought themselves," Thompson said. "But these are talented kids who deserve more than this."

In the meantime, said Wrenn, "baseball programs started for middle school kids this year, and they're going to need a transitional period for the varsity. If we don't have junior varsity baseball next year, where do they go?"

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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