Youth program struggles to get a grip on baseball

PLAYING AROUND

January 21, 2001|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

"HOT STOVE league," a term only slightly younger than baseball, derives from the collective off-season rumors, speculation and chatter about the sport that occurred around stoves of late 19th- and early 20th-century barber shops and stores.

Greater Ellicott City has a hot stove league of its own right now, embellished with letters, petitions and Ma Verizon's lines crackling with calls seeking, among other things, truth. Here's an attempt, drawn from conversations with several in the troubled organization, the Howard County Youth Program, to extract light from heat.

First, a dollop of context: HCYP is governed by a "corporate" board of directors intended to do the "big picture" administration of baseball, softball, basketball and volleyball programs. Day-to-day, each sport operates with its own traditions, fund-raisers, budgets, volunteers and coaches who teach and lead competition.

Now ... Things started smoldering late last summer over differing opinions about how HCYP baseball fit and functioned, including financially, with the rest of the organization's sports. The smoke emanated from, among other things, maintaining the club's Wallis Park, fund raising and revenue sharing between the club's sports.

Sparks began flying last October, when the directors, wanting the baseball program to parallel HCYP's softball and basketball programs administratively, deviated from tradition and passed over the 2001 heir-apparent as baseball commissioner for another, they say, more broadly experienced man, who also is a director. Travel and rec league leadership was divided between two assistant commissioners.

Next came fire, letters from dissidents, the most recent dated Dec. 22 - great timing - to parents of some players in HCYP's baseball program. The letter, bearing 19 names affiliated in some way with last year's baseball hierarchy, called the steps and others "detrimental to our program."

Further, the letter alleged, the board "systematically modified the corporate by-laws to take away your voice as a member" in a couple of procedural ways. Flames spread as dissidents sent the directors a petition with 250 signatures demanding a "special membership meeting to allow the parents to voice their concerns regarding these decisions."

The holidays done, the smoke seems denser, with allegations of petitioners' perceptions and reasons for signing being challenged, their addresses and HCYP membership checked, lawyers being mentioned, personalities discussed, kids' chances of making teams threatened, blah, blah - it's ugly.

But, indeed, a special meeting will be called to clear the air, once the petitioners are verified, said President Howard Carolan, who pointed out that a comparable flap occurred two years ago, when HCYP switched from slow- to fast-pitch softball.

"What we did [about 2001 baseball]," he said, "was not personal. The vote was 13-2. We did the right thing. But they [last year's baseball hierarchy] feel their power is being taken away. ... From time to time, every organization will have a problem like this. It's just a tough situation, especially with everyone being volunteers."

Said dissident Pat Farrell, last year's baseball commissioner, whose term was up after the season: "They have a right to do what they want to about choosing a new commissioner ... but we'd like to see the by-laws returned to what they were."

Later, though, he added: "Our main concern is that the organization not be damaged. ... We hope [the controversy] doesn't do that, and we are continuing to encourage people to sign their kids up to play."

From Carolan, who said that coaches, teams, and plans continue apace for the spring season: "We will not make a decision that would harm any kid. That's factored into every decision we make."

Those last two paragraphs seem to contain the best hope for lowering the temperature of one badly overheated stove.

3v3 Girls soccer

Two teams, it turned out, represented Howard County in last weekend's Sunny Delight 3v3 Soccer Shootout National Championships in Orlando, Fla.: coach Ron Barber's Baltimore Football Club, under-10 boys mentioned last Sunday, and a team of under-12 girls coached by Michael Rosanova and managed by Janet Lally, who organized the squad three years ago.

The girls - three from Ellicott City and one from Woodbine - were in their second nationals, having tied for fifth a year ago in their age group. This year, they were 2-3, being eliminated in the first round of playoffs.

The girls, all on Olympic Development Program teams locally, are Lily Boleyn, Kathryn Lally, Larkin Nixon and Danielle Rosanova.

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