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Published: Wednesday, 8/15/2007

Coaches say Toledo is pitching in for baseball

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Using baseball gloves scrounged from garage sales, North Toledo mother Shannon Demski fielded three youth baseball teams this summer, contributing to what some veteran coaches said yesterday was a promising rebound in Toledo youth baseball.

During a city council committee hearing, several coaches credited the Finkbeiner administration with improving communication with them, and especially with the decision to centralize games at Detwiler Park's baseball complex.

"Everything went in the right direction this year. Getting the young teams back now will set the stage for future years," said David Perez, who has coached "travel" youth baseball teams.

Ms. Demski, 35, said she got sponsorship money for three teams, ages 10-14, from Toledo City Council, Lagrange Development Corp./NorthRiver Development Corp., and ProMedica Health System. She handled recruiting, transportation, and equipment, and left the coaching to others.

She said the new youth sports coordinator, Shawn Sobel, collected 30 to 35 used baseball gloves for the children to use.

"The kids were excited that someone was putting a team together for them," Ms. Demski said.

"It was successful as far as redirecting the kids this summer. It gave them another sport to be involved in. It helped them with training and discipline. They never started any fights, even when they were losing," Ms. Demski said, adding that her 14-year-old daughter was one of two girls who played.

Mr. Sobel said by consolidating youth baseball at Detwiler, the city could maintain the fields to high standards, including building pitchers' mounds up with clay, painting outfield foul lines, and keeping the grass mowed.

In previous years, he said youth travel teams have moved to suburban leagues, such as in Oregon, because of the lack of maintenance of Toledo playing fields. This year, the city charged a $150 registration fee and signed up 12 travel teams to use Detwiler as their home field.

According to Sherrie Shipman, acting manager of recreation, the city signed up 42 "house" teams, with children ages 14 and under.

Ms. Shipman said there were 33 house teams last year. "Travel" teams play some games at opponents' home fields, while "house" teams only play other teams based at Detwiler.

Even with this year's slight increase, youth baseball participation is far below previous years. A February, 2006, report showed 169 teams in 1999, declining to 80 teams in 2005.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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