Baseball, softball group gets support from Biscuits

Committee members Dan Lewis, left, David Thomas present an update on the drive to install baseball and softball programs in MPS middle schools

The committee to initiate baseball and softball programs in the MPS middle schools received clarification from MPS superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore, support from the Montgomery Biscuits and added committees for scheduling games and purchasing equipment as the 2019 season draws closer.

The group met on Thursday at Park Crossing High, a week after a similar meeting at Sheridan Heights Community Center appointed a secretary, treasurer and formed a finance committee to solicit funds for the project.

“When we deal with these business leaders, we need to have the I’s dotted and the T’s crossed,” said the committee’s president, former Robert E. Lee High basketball coach David Thomas. “That’s the way I want it and that’s the way the committee wants it.”

At the Sheridan Heights meeting, the group chose Sheryl Young as its treasurer and Park Crossing assistant coach Dewayne Ward as the group’s secretary. Young, the wife of the late John Young, the founder of RBI, will serve on the committee to solicit funds from area businesses and serve as the liaison with the Montgomery Public School system along with Thomas and former G.W. Carver High basketball coach Dan Lewis.

The group includes former Thomas, his son David Jr., the Park Crossing baseball coach, Lewis, G.W. Carver baseball coach Rod White and most of the city’s baseball and softball coaches who are trying to create a middle school program to enhance player development in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Moore indicated her support in an Oct. 12 letter supporting the group, noting “we are excited to have former and active coaches, business leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, teachers, parents, neighbors, friends, organizations, churches, businesses and the Montgomery County Board of Education supporting this idea and most worthwhile venture.”

The superintendent’s letter asks parties interested in providing financial support to write a check to Montgomery Public Schools, noting on the check that the money should be designated for the “MPS Middle School Baseball/Softball Initiative” and mailed to the MPS Finance Department, 307 S. Decatur St., Montgomery, AL 36104.

The committee visited with Moore on Thursday morning in an effort to clear up any questions concerning the baseball-softball fund.

“I feel we got positive affirmation,” Thomas said. “Our concerns and the questions that we had were answered. We went down to find out if we were going to have control of the money that goes into the account. The answer was yes.

“The coaches will have to be paid by their office out of our funds. If the money is not in there, they cannot be paid. And the coaches have to be vetted (according to MPS standards).”

Thomas followed up his trip to MPS with a meeting with Montgomery Biscuits president Todd “Parney” Parnell, who also gave the group a “letter of full support” that offered “in addition to fundraising, we plan on working with the kids through clinics with Biscuits players and coaches and other memory making opportunities to support and encourage the kids on and off the baseball field.”

Thomas hoped the letter would serve as an incentive to other local businesses to get involved in the project.

“That went super,” he said of the meeting with Parnell. “He shared again what we had talked about in April. It was extremely positive, not from a standpoint of what he will do for baseball, but what he will do for the entire school system in Montgomery.

“He didn’t specify any particular (financial) amount, but he said he would be on board.”

At the Park Crossing meeting, the group added three more committees in an effort to get the baseball and softball programs installed for the 2019 season. If the group cannot find the proper funding or the proper support from the middle schools by the middle of December, the installation of middle school baseball and softball programs likely will be postponed until 2020.

The group will hold its next meeting at Park Crossing High on Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. At that time, the group will discuss the purchase of equipment for the upcoming season, so it is vitally important that middle school and high school coaches attend the meeting.

“That’s very, very important, particularly the middle school coaches,” Thomas said.

A questionnaire sent out by MPS officials to gauge interest in creating a middle school baseball and softball program drew mixed results from the county’s nine middle schools, possibly because the questionnaire did not reveal Thomas’ group plans to financially support the programs with the purchase of equipment and uniforms, payment of coaches’ salaries and payment of officials to umpire games.

Several of the schools have not responded to the committee’s invitations, so gauging the level of support for baseball and softball at some middle schools remains a mystery.

The group appointed David Thomas Jr., as chairman of the equipment committee; Bellingrath Middle School baseball coach Claude Douglas as the facilities committee chairman in charge of locating fields and for the participating teams; and Floyd Middle Magnet athletic director Kanzy Williams as scheduling committee chairman in charge of lining up potential playing dates and opponents that will include teams outside of the MPS system.