DODDS-Europe might soon sponsor baseball
The wait might be nearly over for players and parents who want to see baseball become a true high school sport in Europe.
Or it might not.
According to an unclassified after-action report, DODDS-Europe director Diana Ohman told a semiannual meeting of the European Schools Council last month in Naples, Italy, that baseball will be a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-sponsored athletic program in spring 2009.
“Ms. Ohman realized that there was a desire for baseball to be offered in the DODDS-E sports portfolio, and is doing what all good executives aspire to — making her product better,” council meeting co-chairman Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, the European Command chief of staff, wrote Tuesday in an e-mail.
Also on Tuesday, however, DODDS-Europe public affairs officer Margret Menzies disputed the report’s summary of Ohman’s remarks.
“…(The) report …was not coordinated with DODDS and did not accurately record Ms. Ohman’s comments,” Menzies wrote in response to an e-mail query. “But that said, DODDS is strongly considering adding baseball and is currently evaluating the feasibility….”
She cautioned, however, “… (T)here are still many questions about adding this program….”
If the change is implemented, it would remove high school baseball from its present position as a program administered and run by Child and Youth Services but recognized by DODDS. By participation in the CYS program and meeting agreed-upon academic requirements, high-school-age players are eligible to receive letters from their high schools.
Having the high schools officially adopt baseball would improve the program, according to John English, the CYS sports and fitness director who oversees the baseball program.
“That’s the best thing for our kids,” English said Tuesday by telephone. “They’ll have the same resources as we have, but they’ll get more command emphasis.”
Mannheim pitcher-outfielder Connor Ardy, 15, agreed.
“This is good news,” he said as he worked out in spitting rain Monday with his brother Chris, 19, an assistant coach with the Bison. “Baseball is the only sport I really like to play.”
He added that he made his preference clear during an online survey of student sports preferences that the school system conducted last month. Menzies said that many shared the freshman’s opinion of the national pastime.
“The student interest inventory did show that students are interested in having a baseball athletic program,” she wrote.
English cautioned that having DODDS-Europe absorb baseball is no panacea for complaints about the CYS-run program.
“I’m not the [Department of Public Works],” he said. “Unless the fields are maintained year-round, they’re not going to be any better, no matter who runs the program. Because of where we are (in rainy Western Europe), I can’t get a truck on the field until mid-March. That won’t change. And I’ve got an army of rabbits out there waiting at every field.”
English, who calls on volunteers to help ready playing fields, also wondered where the umpires were coming from.
“We have no feeder program,” he said, “no way of evaluating them, moving them along and replacing them. We get a lot of first-year officials.”
Still, English remains supportive of the potential change.
“I feel great about this,” he concluded.