DAYTON, Ohio - A Florida man is sending a batch of new baseballs. A car filled with gloves, bats and catcher's gear arrived courtesy of a Columbus man. And an Illinois woman who lived through the Great Depression and has a soft spot for baseball is writing a check. | Photo gallery
It's all for the small southern Ohio town of Greenfield, where a tiny band of volunteers worked to save youth baseball when tough economic times threatened to torpedo the program. The 450-player league operating on a shoestring got a shot in the arm when its plight made national news.
"It kind of brings you to your knees," said Fred Everhart, who helped lead the volunteer effort. "It's boosted our spirits. … We were coming in on a wing and a prayer."
In Greenfield, a town of 5,000 about 60 miles southeast of Dayton, 500 auto-related jobs - or 70 percent of the town's industrial employment - are expected to be gone by October. And cargo carrier DHL Express announced it was pulling out of an airport industrial park that employed 8,000 people in nearby Wilmington, throwing many other Greenfield residents out of work.
The loss of tax revenue forced the town to all but drop sponsorship of youth baseball, prompting Everhart and eight other volunteers to step in. They led efforts to raise money and fix up the fields, but were unable to keep the scoreboard and lights on, and games won't have base umpires.
And they were planning to mostly play with used baseballs, but new balls are now "coming from all points," Everhart said.
He's fielded calls from North Carolina to Anchorage to Honolulu.
When David Goetz, 62, of Columbus, read about the effort, he bought 15 used bats, about 20 gloves, half a dozen batting helmets, two sets of catcher's equipment and a batting tee, and drove it 90 minutes to Greenfield.
"I grew up with baseball," Goetz said. "It's like giving back to the love of the game."
Bill Haines, a board member for the Little League program in Media, Pa., bought 24 dozen new baseballs for Greenfield. He said home-run balls hit in his program are given to the parents of the player who hit it, and he feared that couldn't happen in Greenfield because of the limited number of balls.
"The mom has to give it a kiss and give it back?" he said.
Haines, 46, also is collecting donations of equipment from the families of the 600 players in the league. He plans to ship the balls and equipment to Greenfield, but is prepared to drive the more than 400 miles and make a personal delivery if need be.
Everhart estimated that more than 1,000 townspeople showed up Wednesday evening for the first games of the new season.
"I probably saw more smiling faces in a group of people than I've seen in a long time here," Everhart said.
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