- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 30, 2009

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) | A car filled with gloves, bats and catcher’s gear arrived courtesy of a Columbus man. A Florida man is sending a batch of new baseballs. And an Illinois woman who lived through the Great Depression and has a soft spot for baseball is writing a check.

It’s all for the small southern Ohio town of Greenfield, where a tiny band of volunteers worked to save youth baseball when tough economic times threatened to torpedo the program. The 450-player league operating on a shoestring got a shot in the arm when its plight made national news.

“It kind of brings you to your knees,” said Fred Everhart, who helped lead the volunteer effort. “It’s boosted our spirits. … We were coming in on a wing and a prayer.”

In Greenfield, a town of 5,000 about 60 miles southeast of Dayton, 500 auto-related jobs - or 70 percent of the town’s industrial employment - are expected to be gone by October. And cargo carrier DHL Express announced it was pulling out of an airport industrial park that employed 8,000 people in nearby Wilmington, throwing many other Greenfield residents out of work.

The loss of tax revenue forced the town to all but drop sponsorship of youth baseball, prompting Mr. Everhart and eight other volunteers to step in. They led efforts to raise money and fix up the fields, but were not able to keep the scoreboard and lights on, and games won’t have base umpires.

And they were planning to mostly play with used baseballs, but new balls are now “coming from all points,” Mr. Everhart said.

He’s fielded calls from North Carolina to Anchorage, Alaska, to Honolulu.

When David Goetz, 62, of Columbus, read about the effort, he bought 15 used bats, about 20 gloves, half a dozen batting helmets, two sets of catcher’s equipment and a batting tee, and drove it 90 minutes to Greenfield.

“I grew up with baseball,” Mr. Goetz said. “It’s like giving back to the love of the game.”

Mr. Everhart estimated that more than 1,000 townspeople showed up Wednesday evening for the first game of the new season.

“I probably saw more smiling faces in a group of people than I’ve seen in a long time here,” he said.

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