Mar Mac Ballpark seeks community's support
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on March 21, 2008 1:49 PM
The truck pulls into the driveway. The kid quickly jumps off the porch steps, grabs his baseball bat and glove and throws everything into the truckbed. After a few more stops, the truck is overflowing with future prep and college players talking about everything that kids do on a warm summer evening.
They discuss their favorite players and recite every imaginable statistic available. A little card-trading might take place. Laughter always seems to be present.
Carl Barwick misses those days when he carried players to Mar Mac Ballpark. He watched nearly 300 kids scarf down hotdogs after games, warm up for games or chase foul balls that landed outside the fence.
That doesn't happen now.
"Now we're lucky if we have enough kids to put one team on the field," said Barwick.
The interest has waned and the nine-acre facility, which has three Little League-sized fields, doesn't hold the same attraction it did more than two decades ago when Barwick served as a coach.
The 37-year-old park desperately needs a facelift.
Old boards hang off the edge of rooftops on storage buildings and bathrooms that need work inside and out. Each could use a fresh coat of paint.
Splintered bleachers, warped from weather, need replacing.
Grass-covered infields need plowing and replaced with sand so players can easily field ground balls.
Fences surrounding the fields either sag from damaging winds over the years or are rusted with age.
"We want to go back to what it was ... a great family environment where everybody could feel safe and have fun," said David Alexander, who was appointed president of Mar Mac Community Park Inc. in January.
There's one hitch, though.
The park has operated in the red financially for a number of seasons, so the new board has inherited a considerable debt. Alexander and his fellow board members estimate that $15,000 to $20,000 is needed for renovations, and to pay off outstanding bills.
"Luckily, our creditors have been understanding and are cooperating with us," said Billy Fail, who serves as treasurer. "We would like to see the park continue to be a place for kids to come and play ball. It will help keep them off the streets and avoid the pressure of drugs, alcohol and crime.
"It also takes the parents' involvement to keep the park operating."
MMCP Inc. is a "non-profit" group which accepts either monetary or property donations. Memberships are available for $5. In the past, those funds have been used to keep the facility operational and help curb the costs of players' uniforms. Parents shouldered the uniform expense since participation has dwindled.
"All of us are grown and has-beens, and all of our children are grown," said Larry Jinnette, MMCP vice president. "We all played here and coached at some point. They pulled out the harness to bring us back and help get the park going again."
It's about pride added Barwick.
"We've had some good players come through here," said Fail.
The alumni include Chris Wiley, Brandon Faucette, Bradley Bradshaw, Kevin Carr and Brian and Mike Smiley -- just to name a few. All those players starred at Southern Wayne and advanced to the collegiate level.
"If we can't keep the community support, which is the most-important thing for this park, we can't operate it," said Barwick. "We have got to have some help."
Fail has scheduled a park clean-up day for March 29. He's also extended the registration deadline to mid-April and hopes to attract more players. Less than 30 have signed up to play this summer.
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