Baseball league hopes to erase vandals’ damage

Players from the past and present will gather this weekend at the Sardis Dixie Youth Baseball facility in south Charlotte in a sign that the young athletes don’t plan on letting vandals keep them off the field.

The Sardis Homecoming event, on Saturday, Sept. 28, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., will raise money for the baseball association and help cover the costs of damage inflicted in two separate incidents of vandalism earlier this year. The facility’s concession stand was burned down in April, with officials believing someone set fire to a port-a-john nearby and the fire spread to the stand. The loss of the group’s “snack shack” has led to a drop in concession sales, which cuts into the program’s bottom line.

Shortly after the fire, someone drove through an outfield fence and onto the field, forcing a group of parents to gather and pay for fixing the damage.

While the vandalism is something that can be fixed, and no one was hurt in the incidents, organization leader John Smith said the bigger issue is that any money spent on those projects is cash that should go toward something like providing scholarships to families who can’t afford to enroll their child in the athletic association.

“We want anyone who comes out (to play) to leave a better person, if not a better baseball player,” Smith said. “Maybe we’re not as competitive as other leagues, but … we’re trying to reach a demographic that hasn’t been reached yet.”

Because the league is organized by volunteers, and fathers come together to handle tasks such as mowing the fields, Smith is able to offer a lower rate to families so more people can get involved.

“I want it to be family-oriented,” Smith continued. “I love to see kids playing baseball while their parents are on the sideline cheering them on. We’re trying to provide an outlet for kids to come play and organized sport and learn what it means to be a sportsman.”

Saturday’s event will be about raising money to pay for the $5,000 in damage, but also about spreading the word about Smith’s mission. Past players from the organization – including Charlotte mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock – will be in attendance, as will some members of the Charlotte Knights. Smith hopes the attention will help get his Sardis Dixie Youth Baseball association back where it needs to be with facilities, but also serve as a catalyst to get more people thinking about his mission statement – building character, confidence and commitment through baseball.

“I’m hoping that the kids that play there can form some long-term friendships, even when they leave baseball and go on to other things,” Smith said.

The Sardis Dixie Baseball league serves families in the Monroe Road area, including the Lansdowne and Stonehaven neighborhoods. Saturday’s event also will include a canned food drive for Loaves and Fishes.

The event will take place at the fields behind Lansdowne Elementary School, 6400 Prett Court. Find more information online at www.sardisbaseball.org.

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