02/26/08 — Post 11 baseball in financial trouble

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Post 11 baseball in financial trouble

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 26, 2008 2:49 PM

Joe Smith believes in a check-and-balance system.

He recently proved it.

Appointed to a second term as the Wayne County Post 11 Commander, Smith perused the book used to track finances for the American Legion baseball program. His findings proved discouraging.

How could a tradition-rich program operate with a meager $300 budget?

Where did the money go?

Smith decided not to point fingers. He cleaned house instead.

"I did some inner realignment as far as management is concerned," he said. "We're supposed to be in this for the kids' benefit, and the parents who put their time and money into it. From the early 60s to the present day, we've given them first-class treatment."

But it's been costly.

Smith estimated it takes nearly $20,000 per season to keep Post 11 in operation. The money is allocated for transportation, coaching stipends, field use, uniforms, umpires for home games, insurance and the entry fee required to play Legion ball each summer.

"We've been doing it on our own, but we can't any more," said Smith. "Everyone once associated with Legion has either gotten too old, or they've passed away. They're no longer able to support the Legion program as they have in the past.

"I don't have anywhere else to turn."

Smith formed an advisory committee that includes former Post 11 player and manager Doyle Whitfield, Rooster Narron, Will Sullivan and Ken Snell. The group met with several community businessmen Monday evening to ask for their assistance in preventing the storied program, which has produced nine Major League Baseball players, from ceasing operation.

A former Wayne County law enforcement officer, Smith also proposed to move the team from Scarborough Field at Mount Olive College to the Eastern Carolina Athletic Park. If approved, the change should help curb expenses and generate additional revenue.

Smith hopes the Legion Riders, a motorcycle group which raises money for children's charities, will aid his cause.

Wayne County Post 11 claimed the Area I East title last summer and reached the championship game of the state tournament. Smith contends if the finances don't improve, the program can't consistently compete at that level and could disband.

"But we're not going to let it happen," said a determined Smith. "We're going to do everything in our power to keep it going. It benefits the citizens of this county and their young'uns."