Police-sponsored Cadets handcuff opponents Pitching in: Several police officers, the police chief and the Taneytown town manager contributed $565 to start a Little League team.

April 28, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

The Taneytown Police Department has added a dimension to its community policing program -- more than $500 to sponsor a Little League baseball team.

Officers Bill Tyler and Scott Mitchell are teaching baseball skills to the Cadets, a team of 13 boys ages 8 to 12 who play in the Taneytown Recreation League's "minors," a level up from the instructional league and a level below the "majors," where more-skillful players of the same ages participate.

The Cadets helped kick off the league season Monday night at Taneytown Memorial Park, holding on for a 16-10 victory over the Mariners in a five-inning game shortened one inning by darkness.

For Mel Diggs, the Taneytown chief of police who attended the game, and for his coaching officers, the Cadets' victory was significant only in that it added credence to team unity, discipline, fair play and citizenship. The coaches have been preaching those lessons since April 1, when practices began.

"We're trying to teach these boys the skills they will need to get to the next level of play, and also that family and school come before baseball," Officer Tyler said.

With one regular-season game as a measuring stick, players' parents who attended Monday's game said police participation has had a positive influence already.

"The coaches have done a great job," said Rod Huston, the father of third baseman Danny Huston. "The kids have come a long way -- skill-wise -- in the last two weeks."

Mr. Huston's wife, Elizabeth, helps the coaches by keeping score. "Danny's been playing four years, and this is the first team he's played for that won a game," she said.

For the coaches, the most stressful duty Monday evening was telling four eager reserves that they would not get into the game until the fourth inning.

"They're all 'starters,' " Officer Tyler said, "but four have to wait to get into the game."

Ray Peterson, father of Justin, 11, and Christopher, 9, said his sons were proud to be playing for the Cadets.

"They were excited to have the officers as coaches and be part of the first police-sponsored team," Mr. Peterson said.

Valerie Caldwell, mother of 11-year-old Anthony, the team's first baseman, was impressed by her son's improved enthusiasm.

"Anthony skipped playing for two years, but he really enjoys baseball again."

In Monday's second inning, Officer Tyler watched Anthony foul off a letter-high pitch and urged his cleanup hitter to move his feet to the rear of the batter's box.

The tip -- allowing gravity to bring such pitches down in the strike zone -- paid off as Anthony slammed the next pitch for a three-run triple to right center.

"The coaches are really keeping the kids together, telling them what can be improved and what they can do to fix it," Mrs. Caldwell said. "All their comments are positive, and that attitude has spread to all the parents, too."

Said Officer Tyler: "That's the fun part. We're dealing with so much negativism all the time, it's just a joy to teach these kids better, positive ways to get their work -- and their play -- done."

Chief Diggs, seven officers in the department and Chip Boyles, Taneytown's city manager, contributed $565 for the franchise money that paid for equipment and the Cadets' royal blue shirts and caps with red-and-white trim.

That's a worthwhile investment, said Officer Tyler. "Good athletes will make for good citizens," he said.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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