Long Ball returned for its eighth season last Tuesday with an opening day celebration at Historic Durham Athletic Park.
The day was dedicated to John Young, founder of RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), of which Long Ball is a member. Young died on May 8 at the age of 67 from diabetes complications.
“He impacted over 250,000 youths in 200 cities, including Durham,” Long Ball president Pat Nobles James said.
Long Ball has continued to thrive against the odds, thanks to the hard work of volunteers like James, vice president Myra Blackwell, Wanda Daye, Juanita Johnson, other staff, coaches, and sponsors.
Duke, USA Baseball and Hendricks Auto Mall each had a representative present, along with Durham Mayor Bill Bell.
“This season, play the best baseball you can. This is a great opportunity to learn teamwork and responsibility,” said Kevin Kelly, USA Baseball director of community relations.
Hendricks Auto Mall donated $500 to the program, as well as test-drives that also served as a fundraiser.
“We are proud to have been around since the beginning (of Long Ball),” Hendricks Business Development Manager Paul Ensslin said.
Unfortunately, Long Ball still continues to struggle in some areas.
Only three 13- to 15-year-old teams will play this season due to a shortage of coaches. Ensslin volunteered to help coach the 16- to 18-year-olds to keep that league at full strength.
“He said that he and some of his workers would take the team so we could keep them together,” James said.
Two new teams have been added to the schedule this season: Raleigh and Charlotte. Long Ball will match up against Charlotte on June 11 in both age groups, and against Raleigh on June 25 in the 13- to 15-year-old division. All games will be played at the DAP to give the other teams a “professional experience.”
“It is a blessing that we can offer such an awesome opportunity for inner city youths in Durham and the surrounding areas,” James said.
Other upcoming events:
July 8: Carolina Cup at USA Baseball in Cary. Teams from Durham, Raleigh, Charlotte, Fayetteville and Rocky Mount will participate.
July 21: regionals in Maryland.
For more information or to volunteer, contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 14th annual Bill Dooley Chapter Pigskin Preview is July 18, 11:30 a.m. at Embassy Suites in Cary. Registration starts at 11 a.m.
ACC football coaches’ Dave Cutcliffe (Duke), Dave Doeren (N.C. State) and Larry Fedora (UNC), along with N.C. Central coach Jerry Mack and East Carolina first-year coach Scottie Montgomery will discuss the upcoming season.
Fans also can submit questions via the chapter’s website. WTVD’s Mark Armstrong, who will emcee the luncheon, will select a few for the coaches to answer.
Mack, who will be entering his third year at NCCU, will be seeking to become the first Eagles coach to win three straight conference championships.
Visit nffbilldooleychapter.org to pre-register.