Winfield has long been the home of successful football, basketball, baseball and softball recreation programs.
In the past several weeks, though, another sport has joined the lineup, as cricket has come to Carroll County.
The sport is starting to expand in the United States, and a new group of youth cricket players has begun instructional play at Mayeski Park in South Carroll on Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights.
"This is the first time that cricket has been attempted in this area," said Jamie Harrison, founder and president of the U.S. Youth Cricket Association, a Glen Burnie-based organization that is working to promote the sport as a youth activity.
Harrison became involved with the sport when he was teaching U.S. History at the now-closed Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore. On a field trip to Richmond, he took part in a cricket demonstration.
Years later, one of his main tasks at the USYCA is to make cricket more accessible to young people.
"There are more children under the age of 21 in the United States than the entire population of Australia. If only 5 percent of the kids in America started playing cricket in the next 10 to 15 years, we would potentially be one of the best cricket-playing nations in the world," he said. "We have both the population and the economic resources to drive that growth."
Harrison said he feels the best way to stir youth interest in the sport is through the physical education programs in the public school system — several in Carroll County now offer cricket. In recent years, the USYCA has distributed some 500 sets of cricket kits to schools throughout Maryland.
"Our goal was to get kids who had been exposed to cricket in school physical education classes involved in their local youth sports programs," Harrison said. "Once the teachers have their cricket sets and are trained in the sport, the next step is going to the community to partner with a group like the Winfield Recreation Council on an introductory cricket program.
"That's the long-term plan," he said, "and it's going to require a lot of patience and diligence."
Harrison relies on people like Greg Edwards to help build the program. A native Australian, Edwards played cricket in his younger days and takes pleasure in teaching the game to a new audience.
"Where I lived (in Australia), every kid played cricket," said Edwards, a Sykesville resident who also coaches lacrosse in Winfield. "It was part of every summer, and it was also played in the schools. Cricket was practically unheard of when we moved here seven years ago."
Although there are only eight current participants — who range in age from 6 to 12 — Harrison sees the potential for significant growth in Winfield.
He also realizes the challenge of introducing cricket to an area that is traditionally a hotbed for other sports.
"If these kids have a good time, they're going to talk about it when they go back to school and meet up with their friends," he said. "Every year, I read about another sport that's taking hold in the United States. Rugby has a following now that it didn't have 10 years ago, and cricket is the second-most popular spectator sport in the world."
"If we could capture just the kids of people who emigrated here from cricket-playing countries, we would have millions of new players."
As an incentive to spur growth, members who recruit a friend to the fledgling Winfield program receive a "keeper case" that includes a bat, a ball and other equipment. The case cover includes action photos of cricket superstars from around the world.
While cricket has been compared to baseball, there are noticeable differences between the sports. Instead of bases, there are two "wickets," or stations. Batsmen take their place at each of the two wickets.
The bowler (pitcher), who is much closer to the batsman than in baseball, must throw the ball overhand without bending his elbow.
As the ball bounces toward the wicket, the batsman chooses to hit or take the pitch.
Even if the batsman strikes the ball, he does not have to run. If the batsman believes he can make it safely to the other wicket, he calls out "yes" and takes off. At that time, the other batsman also must run from the opposite wicket.
Of course, there's plenty more to learn, including cricket terminology — from a "googly" and "ducks" to a "leg bye" and a "sticky wicket."
Several of the cricket participants also play baseball, including 7-year-old Landon Ports, of Sykesville. At a recent session, his grandfather, Tom Strawsburg, watched intently as Landon learned a new sport.
"He really liked the cricket program at Freedom Elementary, and he wanted to do more of it," Strawsburg said. "The younger you start, the better you become. Landon's baseball experience helps him, especially with the swing."
Landon isn't the only baseball player in the cricket program. Ronak Morgan, a rising seventh-grader at Oklahoma Road Middle School, is the oldest and most experienced of the Winfield cricket players.