Delegating duties means less work, more ball

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

February 06, 2005|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

SIGN-UPS FOR youth baseball continue for many parents and kids to be as certain a sign as Groundhog Day that spring is nearing, regardless of any snow on the ground and chill in the air.

With one exception, this February is no different for Howard County baseball and softball households than any in the past. That exception is the Columbia Youth Baseball Association.

CYBA has entered into an agreement with the Department of Recreation and Parks that eases some of the administrative chores for its volunteer leaders, allowing them to focus more on coaching than bean-counting.

Why the change, which is something of a first, we'll get to in a moment.

The nuts and bolts first:

Anyone with a child from 5 to 17 years old who wants to play baseball or softball in CYBA's recreation-level program this spring can register today online or during normal business hours by calling the rec department at 410-313-4700. CYBA's travel teams, involving far fewer players, of course, are still doing things the old-fashioned way, by working through the relevant coach.

Signing up and paying online, which literally occurs thousands of times each year for dozens of rec department programs and courses, is a bit tricky, unfortunately. The Web site is www.hcrpsports.com -- but the title page has yet to include a CYBA link. So your electronic route is more complicated than it needs to be.

First click on "Youth Sports." Then, at the top of the next page, click on the tiny "Registration" label. Third, in the "Category" block, find the listing "Children Sports Baseball Softball" and click on that. Bingo.

You will find all of CYBA's age groups (as well as one link that Western Howard County Youth Baseball has used for years). All you need to do next is follow the "shopping cart" regimen familiar to anyone who has used online shopping. Payment can be by credit card on the rec department's secure system.

Now, why would this established group cede duties to a county government agency?

"It's just going to make us more accessible," said Joe Gregory, CYBA's president. "It'll let us always have a voice on the other side of the phone, for one thing, somebody [that] someone with questions can talk to. That will make things easier for our volunteers.

"You'd be amazed at how much time is involved in just answering questions of parents new to the program and getting players registered. But rec and parks has people who do that full time, and they're equipped for it. A lot of people assume they're talking to a business when they call us at home, but we're all volunteers."

Like most youth programs, CYBA operates a Web site -- www.columbiabaseball.com -- but has no offices. Volunteer leaders and coaches operate out of their homes.

While rec and parks will be collecting registration fees and answering questions, as well as handling scheduling, CYBA's volunteers will still run the program itself, finding, teaching and assigning coaches, and dealing with players.

CYBA's program in recent years has involved between 600 and 800 players; the organization dropped softball for girls a couple of years ago but brought it back last year and hopes to add a couple of more teams this spring, Gregory said.

Western Howard County also uses the rec department for registration -- a leftover from when the agency set up that now-parent-run program. But the rec people have become more and more involved in registrations for team sports -- doing that work for at least four youth football groups, as well.

"It's a service we've offered for a while now," said Mike Milani, who deals with community-based youth programs for the rec department.

Maybe we're beginning to see a trend that other larger counties have experienced for years, namely the local rec agency having a primary role in overseeing youth sports.

Along the sidelines

FOOTBALL: If you drive by Cedar Lane Park and see another of those turf blankets covering a football field, a nod of thanks goes to the Columbia Ravens youth football organization. The Ravens ponied up about $1,600 to buy the cover, Milani said. It is on a field the Ravens use heavily each fall.

The blankets first were used locally two winters ago in an attempt to boost the growing season for grass on heavily used fields. They work to a point. But too much spring rain or too long a summer drought, combined with heavy use, still can conspire to create poor turf come fall.

Know anyone interesting in amateur sports here, someone unsung who ought to be recognized? Give the writer a call at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sunderland@baltsun.com.

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