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A small band of volunteers tries to get enthusiasm for endangered league to grow.
By JARRETT GUTHRIE Times Correspondent
Published August 12, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - The infield of Field 1 at Meadowlawn Little League serves as an example of hope for District 5 staff and local supporters.
Florida's oldest chartered Little League 1949 has fallen on hard times in recent years, the facilities showing wear and the league seeing diminishing numbers of players.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, Field 1 was disheveled. Where infield dirt should have been there was knee-high grass and weeds. By noon, five volunteers with rakes, shovels, a loaned Bobcat front-end loader and a rebuilt Toro tractor with a rake extension returned the infield to a more familiar red-clay diamond.
"I've had two kids go through here and don't want to see this league die," said Randy Tener, one of the volunteers. "I think we've made a good start at getting it back together."
League officials held a meeting Saturday to elect a new board of directors, and six volunteers formed the new board. Of the 25 people at the meeting more than 10 spent the day either working on fields or repainting and cleaning the concession stand and surrounding buildings.
The meeting was run by Tom Carson, a longtime softball coach and the current leaseholder for Meadowlawn's property. Carson plans to refurbish the facilities for both Little League use and his non-profit Hurricanes Baseball and Softball Academy.
He expects the total cost to be around $600,000, with the lighting alone estimated at $375,000 for all three fields. Carson said his requests for funding assistance from the city of St. Petersburg have not been granted.
So it's back to the volunteers.
"Our volunteers will have to come up big," Carson said. "Little League is above all a business. If (the volunteers) don't get out there and talk to the community, it won't happen."
"If we put this all together, I know we can make this work," District 5 administrator Swanee Franklin said at the meeting. "It's going to take more people who have the heart to do it."
The meeting's attendees mainly included the volunteers, most of whom either had or currently have children in the league. But a few parents from the surrounding neighborhood also attended - something Carson called "a good start."
"This is what we needed," Carson said. "We had nothing, and now we have a start, and if we work together we can pull this off."