As soon as it started raining late Monday afternoon, Frank Brown hopped in his car and drove to Warwick West Side Little League’s Abe Klitzner Field. He watched the puddles form, the infield dirt turn to mud.
And then he and his team of parents-turned-groundskeepers went to work. Two hours later, the field was in tip-top shape and West Side’s 12-year-old softball all-stars were running on to it, poised for a district championship.
The work that went into that championship was celebrated after the final out, as it should have been.
The work that made the championship possible was lost in the shuffle, as it often is. But for anyone watching the raking and shoveling, it was another reminder of the power of volunteers in youth sports.
They do amazing things.
“We have some of the greatest parents and fans here who will jump right in and help out,” said Brown, who manages the 12-year-old team.
It’s something that happens every night, at every league in the city, the state and beyond. Fresh off full days of work, parents get their little athletes into uniform, pile them into the car and head to the field. They run concession stands, keep score, announce, coach. They do a hundred little things no one ever sees.
And they get fields ready.
Watching it was a wonder to behold. They lifted tarps off home plate and the pitcher’s mound. They raked and spread out drying agents. They hopped on a tractor and dragged the infield. They shoveled chunks of wet dirt off the baselines. Even some young helpers chipped in, kneeling on the wet grass with big sponges in their hands, sucking up puddle after puddle.
All the while, the opposing coaches and district officials looked on skeptically.
But Brown and his crew kept working.
The softball team wanted to play, wanted to clinch the championship. Their grounds crew was on it.
“I’ve been involved with the league for 16 years and I’ve told the other coaches I know this field,” Brown said. “I know what it takes to get it ready and it can get ready real quick if you know what you’re doing.”
It’s not easy. Muscles get sore and hands get dirty. Shoes are caked with mud when it’s over.
But it’s worth it.
When I saw the rain start falling, I expected the game to get canceled, expected to drive to West Side and see an empty field.
Instead, I saw a few dedicated souls, doing whatever they could to make softball happen on a wet night.
I didn’t count on that, but knowing youth sports parents, maybe I should have.
“They really support these kids here at West Side,” Brown said.
The softball team did them proud, winning in dominant fashion to secure a second consecutive district championship.
The rain held off until after the game, when the puddles didn’t matter. Mother Nature has toyed with baseball and softball teams a lot over the past few weeks, with drizzle and storms and fog.
But maybe this time, even she was impressed.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.