BY LEAH SHAW
One area little league team has been coming up to bat against community problems, since the 2017 season.
Genesee Valley Little League, now entering its 7th season has been in successful recovery from its defunct past for the last 5 years, thanks to Larry Floyd. But a team without coaches means a lack of players, which means a lack of parent trust and confidence.
Floyd brought the team back from the red in 2012, rounded up a skilled board of actionable volunteers and have since worked diligently to bring the team back onto its feet.
There is no lack of physical resources, says Floyd. Fees are kept low thanks to support from the Little League organization and a longtime partnership with Genesee Street veteran Jim Dalberth Sporting Goods.
The city of Rochester updated the baseball fields at Genesee Valley Park and maintains the pitch.
Environmental Commissioner Norman Jones makes an appearance at every opening day parade. Genesee Valley experienced their best season yet in 2015 with 8 teams. The only thing missing now Floyd says: volunteers.
“You’ve only got one shot in a season to prove yourself,” he said. For Floyd, volunteers and—because all Little League positions are unpaid—coaches are the difference between a team that has already held one or two coach meetings, while others are still scrambling to find coaches. On average, Genesee Valley has been able to secure 75-85 players. This past season, they only had 60.
“It’s tough to have a quality program without enough hands,” he said. “We need more dads.”
Floyd believes, the lack of volunteerism within the southwest region of Rochester is a bigger indicator of social problems of the community.
Volunteers are hard to come by in single parent households. Appealing to grandparents or those who are already overwhelmed with other volunteer obligations is even less possible.
“I should be pushing you off the field, asking you not to help,” Floyd said of parents whose kids join the league.
Little League in Rochester began around 1952, when Frank Ciacca birthed the leagues out of the Lyell Ave area.
Today East side Little League, South side Little League and Genesee Valley Little League are a part of District 4, which includes most of Monroe County, as well as parts of Wayne, Livingston, Ontario and Orleans County. The support between the city leagues is palpable.
East side Little League has done the best at maintaining involvement over the years thanks to strong leadership, according to Bruce Conrow, Eastside President and Chairman since 2011.
This same leadership has literally built East side's fields at Tryon Park. Two-thirds of everything visible at the park is from volunteers, said Conrow. In 1964, East side founder Ken Kampf crafted used metal parts to make the backstops for the Minors field.
Conrow himself, dug all the fencing for the various outfield fences.
Volunteers take care of all field maintenance and about 15 of them erected the team’s storage unit in 2013 in one weekend.
Conrow, gestured to the center softball field. “Getting rid of all of this overgrown grass means I’ll have to be out here this weekend with two gallons of Roundup,” he said.
Though, East side received two $15,000 grants from the city in 2005 and 2006, Conrow is aware that volunteers who appreciate what East side is doing is what makes the league a success. Many coaches played with East side as kids.
“In any kind of volunteer effort, you must realize that it’s 10 percent of the people doing 90 percent of the work,” he said.
Genesee Valley will be holding board elections soon and part of the meeting agenda will be, how to improve enrollment and get more coaches. They’ll continue to cross check locations for flyers with East side and South side, as well as consider regular media spots leading up to the start of the season. “We’re crazy, so were going to see what happens next year, push all the buttons we know how to push and hope for the best,” said Floyd.