Bob Howell

The following is written as a tribute to the volunteers that make youth sports programs work ... all across the country.


'Tis the season to sing the praises of the unsung heroes of athletic programs across the country — the volunteers and parents who work behind the scenes. 

With Paula and me, our volunteer years began with Dixie Youth Baseball's youngest age category and continued through high school. It started with the time we spent in the concession stand at the baseball field behind Dannelly Elementary School in Montgomery. Parents who had children playing in the youth league took turns serving the hamburgers, hotdogs and a variety of candy. 

You couldn't have run the food operation without volunteers who, for the most part, were happy to help out. It was a time you got to know the other parents whose children might not have attended the same school as your son or daughter. Some lifelong memories were made while we served our time selling behind the counter. Many, many thanks go out to you for being a vital part of what made the league work.

When both of our sons were playing, I was selected Commissioner of Southeastern Dixie Baseball. Little did I know how much I had bitten off with no hope of swallowing. 

The highlight of the beginning of the baseball season was tryout day. The youngsters show off their skills in fielding and hitting to the coaches and their assistants. That was followed by "the draft." That's when all of the coaches got together to select the players for each of the teams.

Once the teams and schedules for the leagues were set, it was time to set the days and times  for the volunteers to serve their time in the concession stand. 

But first, we had to have something to sell. I talked with the outgoing commissioner about where to buy the frozen hamburgers, hotdogs and, of course, the candy. 

By the way, we made an executive decision not to sell chewing gum because when all the flavor was chewed out kids would spit it out on the concrete, creating a real mess. 

Did you realize all those black globs were really "chewed" gum that never made it into the trash can? I didn't.

So, I made a schedule for picking up the frozen food at one wholesale store and all the rest at Sam's Club. Also, the agreement for installation and maintenance of all the scoreboard equipment was furnished by CocaCola ... as long as we sold Coke products. 

Now on to football. At our boys' school, the athletic boosters handled the concessions. I know they had 98 percent volunteers for the five or six home games. And did I mention that there was nothing tastier than a ball park hot dog or hamburger? 

Food and athletics seem to go hand-in-hand. When our two sons went to watch their alma mater play the first game of the season, one of their assistant coaches remembered Paula and several "team mom" volunteers brought biscuits and fixins for the boys who had practice before school. 

That was nearly 23 years ago! My how time flies when you're hungry. 

Other volunteers handed the sports annual which was sold to benefit the overall athletic program. And then there was the big "Night to Remember," where some lucky ticket-holder won a $10,000 draw down prize.

So it goes to show that volunteerism is alive and well when it comes our children. Thanks for anything you've done to help your own cause.

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