Lamar Ferrell, pastor of Berachah Church in Middletown, talked about what it takes to be successful: “No one of us is good by ourselves. It takes a family. It takes a team. It takes a community to change what needs to be changed.”
On Wednesday afternoon, part of that change was celebrated when Capt. Brian Wright from the Middletown Division of Fire presented a $16,564.98 oversized check to Middie Way baseball during a ceremony at fire headquarters.
Wright said the firefighters hoped to raise $8,000 through their golf tournament but doubled that due to the support of sponsors. The City of Middletown also gave the organization a $10,000 grant earlier this year to purchase baseball equipment.
This year, in response to the dwindling number of kids playing youth baseball in the city, five free baseball camps were held at Lefferson Park. The first camp drew 50 kids and more than 100 kids received fundamental instruction from local players, coaches and volunteers at the last camp, said Greg Schwarber, former Middletown police chief and commissioner of Middie Way baseball.
“We moved in the right direction,” said Schwarber, who added baseball is an expensive sport and no kid should be limited by their financial means.
Next year, the organization will be affiliated with Little League and the goal is to provide local children an opportunity to play baseball in Middletown instead of traveling to surrounding communities, Ferrell said.
Kyle Schwarber, a Middletown High School graduate who completed his seventh season in Major League Baseball, said he fully supports the program in hopes of revitalizing youth sports in his hometown.
“I will be all in on this,” said Schwarber, who was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Boston Red Sox this season.
He wouldn’t allow the baseball organization to use his name unless he was “fully committed,” he said.
His father said youth baseball is “important to us” and his son’s “heart still is in this community.”
Schwarber said some of his “fondest” childhood memories are playing baseball with his buddies at Smith Park. That’s where he met some of his best friends, he said.
Ferrell said Middletown has been blessed with “incredible” athletes and scholars, but over time youth sports have taken “backseats, some hits.”