The little league community is gathering in earnest for its annual fundraising night and despite the recession, indications are that it will be another successful bash.
The little league auction always raises tens of thousands of dollars for the children who play at the Field of Dreams and this year it’s at the newly opened Camana Bay Arts and Recreation Centre on 7 November.
The little league programme over its two decades here has touched many in Cayman at some level which means optimism for a high return is not misplaced.
Little league has strong, widespread support. Just go to the Field of Dreams any weekend and catch the baseball kids competing as proof of its popularity.
Margot Weber is a little league mom to son Kevin, 11. He has played for five years, starting in T-ball and is now at AA level.
“In baseball the sky is the limit, of course, but right now he wants to learn as much as possible,” Margot says.
“The programme is moving in a direction that I think will be great for the kids who have an aspiration to grow in the sport. It’s going to offer an opportunity for them to really improve their skills. Little league is his number one sport, he even dropped soccer for it.”
It is Kevin’s all-consuming passion. “I love it, I just want to come here every day and do it,” he enthuses.
“My ambition in baseball is to work hard and keep trying my best in the things I’m not good at and the stuff I’m good at I want to get better at it. I’d love to be a pro but it doesn’t matter if I don’t make it, as long as I try to do my best, I don’t mind.”
Kevin played for Home Gas in the regular season and they won their league. He is in the Cay Sox travel team and they’ve done better this year than last.
He follows the New York Yankees and favourite players are Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.
There’s a Derek Jetersigned glove in the auction and Kevin reckons he’s prepared to sell everything he has to get it.
Eimer Chiari Powery is coach of Maples, one of the three teams playing in the little league classic tournament on 30 October.
Powery, 27, was born in Panama and raised in Cayman. His grandfather is Caymanian which is how he ended up here. He was one of the first generation of little leaguers and is giving back now.
As a child, Powery reckons that little league was one of the best organised and supported sports in Cayman. Other sports attract their attention now, but smashing the ball for a home run still gives thrills to plenty.
“I felt that kids could come out and have fun and improve their skills and it also inspired them to go out and try to be professionals and also go on to further education at college,” says Powery.
“These kids now are at a higher level than the normal little league. They all want to be professionals and get baseball scholarships.
“I personally think that some of them are good enough to make it and told them myself if they concentrate they can go on. It’s a matter of Cayman getting more involved with baseball. I think it’s a sport that’s not seen as much as soccer but it can actually progress.
“The economy is pretty hard but there are still a lot of people who love the game and I think the auction will still be a good turn out.”
American Robert Imparato is on the board of directors of the little league and an organiser of the auction. He’s been involved with little league since 1997 when first arriving from Houston.
He’s an ex-little leaguer himself and his daughter was one too. He’s been a coach, a board member, auction organiser, umpire… pretty much every aspect of the set up.
Imparato sees the auction going pretty well despite the challenging economic times because so many people have a connection.
“It helps that it is free for kids to play and has been for the last 20 years and is in a wonderful facility,” says Imparato. “The Field of Dreams is still not fully paid for which is part of the reason for the auction.
“This is a safe environment for children and it’s youth sports and it has all these positive things going. People want to help us which is why I think the auction will be very successful still.
“Last year we raised about CI$100,000 and we hope to do the same this year. It’s a little more challenging but this year we’ve raised the bar for ourselves.
“We’ve had it at the Marriott previously but this year we’re going to the new facility at Camana Bay. It’s mainly being organised by Sara Mackay who has done a great job. The ARC is larger, has much higher seating capacity and we’re hoping to sell between 30 and 35 tables of ten.
“At $100 a head, it’s a complete bargain compared to other charity events on the island, some which are $1,000 a head. We’ve got great food by Mise en Place. We have a number of surprises and a silent auction and sports memorabilia and vacation packages.
“There are everyday items too, like gift certificates. There’s a perception that this is only for high rollers but that’s not the case. There are big items and also some bargains too.”
* For more information on the auction, contact Sara Mackay at [email protected]