Encouragement and Community: Guiding Principles at the Sandlot< < Back to
A loud ding echos around the park as aluminum connects with cowhide sending the ball over the left-center fence.
“That’s a good hit buddy, good hit!”
These words are often heard at the ball park, normally coming from a coach or parent.
It’s opening day at the Sandlot, on West State St. in Athens. Those words of encouragement come from neither a coach nor a parent, but from umpire Rudy Schultz.
“I enjoy the kids,” he said, “They’ve got enough pressure on them as is, so I try to make it fun.”
Schultz has been in the business for 18 years. He’s been umpiring in Athens for the past three years but has called games all over the place, even going as far as Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Max McDulin, assistant coach for the Junior High Athens Bulldogs, said he loves Schultz’ presence behind the plate.
“Even though we want to win, we want the opposing pitcher to throw strikes; we want the opposing kids to hit the ball; we want it to be a competitive game,” he said. “That’s what [Schultz] is rooting for too and helping them do, so I love it.”
Schultz’ approach towards the kids represents the philosophy of the Sandlot: “Sportsmanship and developing baseball skills take precedent over ‘winning at all costs.'”
That philosophy brings a sense of community to the diamonds and McDulin has already picked up on it in his first full season of coaching.
“I used to hit golf balls at the range around the corner and then come watch some Little League baseball,” he said. “I didn’t really know what it meant to the Athens community until this year. But it’s a lot of fun to be around.”
Lukas Moore, head coach of the Bulldogs, jumped at the opportunity to do play-by-play for Athens High School football and basketball two years ago. Through that experience, he was offered the junior high coaching position this year.
With so many people reaching out to him, Moore said he already feels a part of the community.
“Knowing all these families, knowing all these kids, being on this field, driving around town, you become a part of the community really quickly,” he said. “I’m really happy with how quickly that happened, it’s a good feeling.”