Summers is a 16-year-old senior at Chopticon High School in St. Mary's
County. He is an honors student, a superior athlete and a polite young
man who is energized about going to West Virginia Univeristy next year,
with hopes for a career in the FBI.
But what made Summers so grounded and so focused? Was it his mother, a
school principal? His father, a former Orioles-affiliated minor-league
player and United Parcel Service driver? A nurturing environment?
Without question, it was all of these things.
But it was also Summers' years-long involvement in community-based
baseball. Summers said he started playing T-ball when he was 4 years
old, but the family lore is that ever since he could stand and walk, a
bat was his virtual sidekick. Through the years, he has played baseball
in youth state championships, for both local Babe Ruth and select teams,
and for Chopticon. Select teams are different from teams that are open
to all children. Players are recruited, travel more often and focus on
highly competitive tournament ball.
Summers is both a stand-out ballplayer and youth, according to Bob
Richardson, district commissioner of St. Mary's Babe Ruth Baseball
(known as District 7 and covering all of St. Mary's County). Babe Ruth
Baseball is a non-profit, worldwide organization with more than 1
million co-ed players, ages 4 to 18, participating in various levels of
ball that also incorporate girls' softball and Cal Ripken Baseball for
players 12 and under, according to the organization's Web site,
In Southern Maryland, Babe Ruth Baseball and Little League have built a
major following, with thousands of children participating annually
through programs that are supported by area parks and recreation
divisions. Registration happens early in the year - generally in January
and February - with warmer months ushering in the spring season and a
sure-fire, Southern Maryland devotion to outdoor sports.
"Little League is recreational ball for every youth and not according to
skill level," said Ed Wojtkowski, district administrator for Maryland
District 7, which includes Calvert, Charles, Prince George's and St.
Mary's counties. "Kids learn the sport and to enjoy themselves, but they
also gain a sense of comraderie, sportsmanship and fair play."
Last year, more than 4,000 children participated in tri-county Little
League teams, paying between $75 and $85 per child a season, said
Wojtkowski. However, he added, "we don't turn kids away because their
parents can't pay."
Indeed, Little League, since the first official game was played in 1939,
is based on the building blocks of goodwill, community and a youth
sports niche that creates a sort of extended larger family. For kids to
participate, there are hundreds of adults who must be involved as well,
including umpires; partners such as county government departments that
provide information, fields and maintenance; and volunteers such as
managers, coaches, team moms and boards. Funding comes from fees,
business sponsors and other donations.
John Reams, president of the Nanjemoy Little League and a coach, points
out that parental involvement helps youth ball leagues and teams
flourish. "I would say baseball is pretty popular in Southern Maryland,"
he added. "We try to encourage parents to get involved and to work with
Parents are the clincher, agrees Donna Bowles, president of St. Mary's
American Little League, which had more than 44 teams last year and more
than 500 youths participating in T-ball, machine pitch, softball and
"I think, in many cases, the parents played and they want to keep their
children in the game, too," she said. "Little League tries to teach and
promote sportsmanship. It's not necessarily about the all-star, but also
about the kid who played his heart out and didn't throw the bat down
(when things didn't go his way)."
Summers said he enjoys baseball because it's a "team sport." "Everyone
has to strive for one goal or else you're not going to make it." It has
also taught him to have motivation in life "to better yourself," and
he's learned firsthand about healthy competition and a code of ethics.
During a time in which techonology is king and entertainment is
dominated by 24/7 television, computers, the Internet and cell phones -
with communication reduced to a digital dialogue and a new culture of
what it means to be hip - youth baseball and softball harken back,
hinting of tradition and a national spirit.
Baseball, whether you're watching it or playing it, is about kids
getting outside, being active, summertime, and bringing communities and
families together to enjoy "the great American pasttime," said Tom
Myrick, president of the Calvert Babe Ruth League and a former coach.
Youth T-ball, softball and baseball league supporters are also hopeful
that the slump some Southern Maryland teams have seen in past years
because of the growing popularity of youth soccer and lacrosse will be
countered by the grassroots enthusiasm the minor-league Blue Crabs team
has spurred. They agree that the organization has been resoundingly
supportive of local youth sports teams. It has, for example, provided
its venue for events such as award ceremonies, roadshows and clinics,
and invites kids in for free anytime they wear their youth sports
uniforms to a game.
"There is definitely an attachment between having a (professional) team
in the area, such as the Blue Crabs, and children getting inspired to
both play the game and become a fan of baseball," Wojtkowski said.
Southern Maryland Youth T-Ball, Softball and Baseball Organizations
Calvert Babe Ruth League
Calvert County American Little League
Calvert National Little League
Charles County Youth League
Hughesville Baseball Association
www.hughesvillebaseball.org; Joe Therres,
Nanjemoy Little League
Northern Calvert Little League
Larry Hull, 301-602-4486.
Northern Girls Softball
Gary Norris, 301-769-4280 or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Potomac River Little League
Tim Boyd, firstname.lastname@example.org; 301-743-3813
Southern Maryland Youth Organization
St. Mary's American Little League
Donna Bowles, Dbowles12345@aol.com
St. Mary's Babe Ruth Baseball
St. Mary's County T-Ball Youth Organization
David O'Neill, email@example.com
St. Mary's National Little League
SYB (Solomon's Youth Boys)
Optimist Club of Lusby
Waldorf Little League
(formed from merging the Waldorf American Little League and Waldorf
National Little League)
Editor's Note: We attempted to include all youth leagues in Southern
Maryland. If we missed one, please let us know at somdthisisliving (at)