GARLAND — Inside a packed Visitor’s Center, community members loudly cheered and clapped after Mayor Winifred Murphy asked them to. When it comes to softball, they had a lot to celebrate Tuesday evening.
If plans to resurrect a league stay on track, more shouts of encouragements will be heard at the local ball fields. Murphy recalled moments when she heard laughter and excitement in the past.
“It’s past time that we bring back the laughter and the screams of excitement,” Murphy said.
During the gathering led by Judy Smith, residents and supporters attended the meeting to discuss the formation of the organization — one of the first steps of seeing local youths playing the sport again. Smith introduced the idea which will include coaches, a public relations official, senior advisers and a commissioner. Wanda Johnson will serve as secretary and treasurer.
“It’s going to be a democratic process and along with that democratic process, we have to gather information and we have to make decisions based on that information,” Smith said.
She was joined by other presenters and volunteers such as Commissioner S.J. Smith, who are playing a big part in the process. Gary Long, a former umpire, agreed to be the director of the league for children of different ages and adults.
In order for it to work, sponsorship opportunities may be available by advertising on shirts and sign fences. At one point, Garland Parks and Recreation was involved before the organization dissolved. Presenter and volunteer Carl Caine shared his experiences about the league and other logistics such as concession stands and repairs. About $10,000 in town and county funds were used to pay for equipment such as bats, balls and lights. The only paid contractors included umpires, everyone else volunteered their time.
The volunteers questioned where money will come from in the future, but Smith said the commissioners will look at forming a budget for the league. There’s uncertainty about county funding being available, but Smith added that everything is in the beginning stages, so more details will be presented down the road.
“We’re not making set in stone promises about what it’s going to be,” Smith said. “We got to have a draft, we got to see how many children step up and see how many people are interested in the league.”
The meeting followed after the Garland Commissioners voted unanimously in February for Brad Richardson to begin renovation work on one of the ball fields. Smith said a second estimate has already been submitted, which will be presented to town officials during a Tuesday, March 8 meeting. When everything is complete, fields will be ready for the softball teams.
While addressing the audience, Murphy added that community members should work together to make sure the league is a success for children, despite the financial challenges that come with it.
“It’s going to take dedication, it will take commitment, it will take time and passion for so many,” Murphy said.
She also stressed the importance of residents attending board meetings so they know what’s going on in their community and the need for other indoor and outdoor activities.
“This is just one project,” Murphy said about the softball group. “With our town being so small, we have many projects that we need to do for our young people.”
Some people in attendance asked if baseball would be added to the mix to help prepare children for the sport if they want to play in high school. Smith explained how it was important to take a one step at a time approach at the beginning.
“We want have a long range goal, but we want to set little bases in between so that we can reach our goal,” Smith said.
Residents in attendance signed up to help with different ways such as sponsorship, coaching, score keepers or just being a fan. Smith said the committee will hold a clean up day to improve the ball field areas.
“This is when stop talking the talk and start walking the walk,” Smith said enthusiastically about people getting involved.
Murphy said the formation was a “home run” for the town and the meeting being a victory since coaches, players, volunteers and umpires are coming together to bring baseball back to the town.
“We can already claim that we’re undefeated and we have a winning record,” Murphy said.
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