Savage Boys and Girls Club's focus is sports participation, not pressure


August 02, 2002|By Susan Harpster | Susan Harpster,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IN 1967, Mickey Mantle made baseball history when he hit his 500th home run and beat the Baltimore Orioles, 8-6, at Yankee Stadium. In Savage Park that same year, a few local guys made history by starting a baseball team for neighborhood kids.

The birth of the Savage Boys and Girls Club was a community effort with a simple philosophy: Every child -- no matter his or her ability to play or pay -- should be able to participate in recreational sports.

The club has grown in 35 years, but its purpose remains the same. Club officials believe this is the primary reason for the organization's success.

The dedication and leadership of the Savage Boys and Girls Club board of directors and officers -- Mike Cameron, Tom Lawler, Marina Kitzmiller, Mimi Mierzwa, Joe Bofrone, Byron Henry, Tom Logan, Al Ross, Tom Bushong and Renee Plazak -- is another reason.

The club's emphasis is on teamwork, good sportsmanship and respect.

"We have grown from a small neighborhood club to an organization that provides sports programs to nearly 1,200 kids each year," wrote Mike Cameron, the club president, in an e-mail. "That equates to about 550 families that send their kids to us for baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and flag football.

"We have also made tangible contributions back to our community through gifts to local schools and partnering with the county in the Adopt-a-Park program."

In this age of high-pressure sports, winning is often everything. But the priorities in Savage are more low-key. "Kids who play for Savage come from all areas of Howard County," Cameron said.

"Parents come to Savage because their kid is an average player -- or whatever their level of ability. They are playing for fun. They don't want that kind of pressure," he said.

Savage Baseball Commissioner Jeff Campbell, 37, who has been coaching for 16 years, can trace his roots to the beginning of the program. Campbell was the batboy for the inaugural team, and he started playing baseball for Savage in 1970, when he was 5 years old.

That was back in the days when Savage Park had one field, and club members had to mow it themselves before the kids could play. Today, Savage Park has six baseball fields and several recreational amenities.

Jeff Campbell's father, Tom Campbell Sr., who passed away in October 2000, was one of the club's founders.

"He didn't do it for any other reason than the sheer enjoyment of spending quality time with the kids," his son said.

Information about the club: 301-604-8308, or www.

Travel team

Congratulations to the Savage Boys and Girls Club's travel baseball team for 9-year-olds on its awesome spring season.

Only the best teams this side of the Mississippi River earned the right to compete in the Super Regional Baseball Tournament, held in Philadelphia last month. The local champions also took first place in the Mid-Maryland Travel Association's 9-and-under division.

The team's success was because of the combined efforts of coach Ray Pipik; assistant coaches Gary Jordon, Steve Paquet and Kelly Stup; and players Sam Beatty, Matt Bennett, Ben Cameron, Zach Hazzard, Ben Jordon, Chris Mierzwa, Steven Paquet, Mark Piccirelli, T.J. Pipik, Matt Rosenberry and Zach Stup.

Carol Beatty, Sam's mother, praised Coach Pipik.

"Sam loved baseball, but he needed skills," she said. "But there was something in Sam that Ray [Pipik] saw. He was impressed by a child's love for the game. Ray knows that a child's skills can be developed. Enthusiasm and a love for the game cannot."

Mike Cameron, whose son Ben plays first base for the team, also credits Pipik for his "working hard at having fun" approach to coaching. "This philosophy is a hallmark of Ray's coaching style -- he encourages the boys to work hard and do their best but never lets them lose sight of the fact that baseball is a game and is meant to be enjoyed."

A night out

The North Laurel Civic Association will sponsor a neighborhood barbecue from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday to observe the 19th Annual National Night Out, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. The program is designed to prevent crime, build neighborhood spirit and foster partnership between the Police Department and the community.

Hot dogs, hamburgers and sodas will be served at 9535 Cissell Ave., North Laurel. Residents should take a small side dish or dessert to share.

Information: Donna Thewes, the Police Department's North Laurel community liaison, at 301-604-2958.

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