Wanted: Support for city athletes BY JEFF YOUNG, Assistant Sports Editor
If Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig really wants to know why fewer and fewer African-Americans are playing his sport, he doesn't need to form a committee or approve an in-depth study.
He just needs to ask someone like Gerry Shehan, who will tell him this: It's about money.
"There's so much showcase baseball ... all these kids are traveling and paying to play, and it doesn't leave (city) kids a place to play baseball,'' Shehan said Monday. "If you don't have $3,000 or $4,000 to play baseball, you can't play.
"You've got to spend $85 an hour for a lesson, and kids are taking lessons all winter long. ... I've got three or four players that, if they had lessons all winter long, there's no way anybody would keep up with them.''
Shehan, meanwhile, is facing this challenge at the grassroots level. But he needs help.
After five years of coaching in Lancaster city programs, Sheehan and fellow coach Jerry Martin are reviving the city's American Legion team, which was sidelined last year due to a lack of funding. Sheehan said they likely will have a full roster of 18 players to compete in District 10 (Lancaster County) when the season begins on May 21.
Of course, there are bills to pay -- which is where Shehan hopes that help will come in.
Shehan said the team's current funds ($300) leave them about $2,200 short of expenses for the coming season. Those expenses include state and national fees, insurance, umpires, uniforms, baseballs and uniform patches.
District 10 President Bruce Daveler said that rising costs are a challenge throughout American Legion ball, particularly for teams in need of sponsorship.
Only a few teams are still sponsored by their local posts, Daveler said, while many more are supported by athletic organizations or youth organizations. Others are charging athletes anywhere from "$40 or $50 to well over $100'' to participate, he said.
In addition to Lancaster, District 10 teams for the coming season include Conestoga Valley, Ephrata, Lititz, Manheim, Manheim Township, Marietta, New Holland, Penn Manor, Strasburg/Willow Street and Quarryville.
When the city team roster is complete -- Shehan said Lancaster will hold an open tryout session on May 5, at 1 p.m. at McCaskey High School -- he plans to involve the players in fundraising efforts. He is exploring several avenues.
The team must raise as much money as possible by the league meeting scheduled for May 19. Shehan said some expenses, such as umpires and baseballs, may be covered on a week-to-week basis.
"We're going to make it, whether I have to pay for it myself or not,'' he said. "But I'd prefer not to have to pay for the whole deal personally.''
Shehan requested that anyone interested in helping to support the city's American Legion program call him at 717-538-1391.
"There's no donation,'' he said, "that's too small.''
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