It's a staple of childhood for many youngsters: youth baseball. Many central Ohioans probably recall their introduction to the sport, the moment they first stepped to the plate - bat in hand - and swung at a ball resting on a plunger. The resulting memories are made possible in part by league sponsors, many of them area business owners who once played youth baseball or softball.
It’s a staple of childhood for many youngsters: youth baseball.
Many central Ohioans probably recall their introduction to the sport, the moment they first stepped to the plate — bat in hand — and swung at a ball resting on a plunger.
From T-ball, they might have moved on to “coach pitch” and then, perhaps, “kid pitch.”
The resulting memories are made possible in part by league sponsors, many of them area business owners who once played youth baseball or softball.
Whether the league goes by the name North Columbus Sports or North Columbus Intramural League or Grandview Baseball Softball Association, the nonprofit, volunteer-based entity relies on sponsors to keep it running and the costs for families lower.
(In the case of the North Columbus Intramural League, for example, business support makes up 25 percent of its $40,000 yearly operating budget; the rest comes from fees to play.)
Almost every suburb or area in central Ohio has a league; the groups generally cater to boys and girls 8 to 18.
Some leagues have been around for 50 years. For just as long, sponsors — 30 to 40 in each league — have lent their support.
With another season winding down, The Dispatch interviewed a sampling of sponsors — all of whom said their financial support had to do less with attracting business than with helping kids and feeling a part of the community.
• Sichko Nationwide Insurance , 1885 W. 5th Ave.
David Sichko’s ties to baseball — which he calls his “first love” — are rooted in the “peewee” league in Cleveland, his native city.
He would go on to pitch for Ohio State University (1971-73), then coach at Grandview Heights High School, for which his three sons played.
This year, Sichko — who has lived and owned a business in Grandview Heights since 1984 — began sponsoring a team in the Grandview Baseball Softball Association to instill in young people the love he has for baseball, he said.
Sichko, 62, also sees it as an opportunity to help children “participate in organized sports and learn about what kind of character they’re going to develop.”
His goal, he said, is to help keep children active in the summer.
“Keep them outside; that’s where they belong.”
• Grandview Heights Police Department , 1016 Grandview Ave .
The police officers milling about Pierce Field on Northwest Boulevard are probably not on duty.
They’re watching their team.
The department has supported the Grandview Baseball Softball Association for the past few years, Sgt. Leslie Jackson said, as a way to foster positive interaction with the community.
“It puts more of a personal touch on us,” Jackson said. “That way, they (residents) feel comfortable calling if there’s a problem (requiring help from police).”
The department’s team this year is the Rangers, in the boys’ Mosquito League.
When some officers recently attended a party at the coach’s house, Jackson said, they made an entrance — pulling their cars into the driveway with lights blazing.
• Nini’s Barber Shop , 2088 Henderson Rd .
When he became co-owner of Nini’s Barber Shop in the mid- 1990s, Charlie Broddeck took over not only the Northwest Side business but also the tradition of sponsoring a North Columbus Sports team.
Although his support might help boost business at the shop, he said, it also “gives kids the opportunity to play ball.”
The barber, who played in a youth league in Grove City while growing up there, also pays for a banner sporting his logo that hangs from an outfield fence at Ridgeview Middle School, where league athletes play.
“It’s America’s pastime,” said Broddeck, 54. “You’ve got another way to connect with people other than school when you’re participating in a sport.”
• Clintonville Auto Repair Service (CARS), 585 Oakland Park Ave.
Any customer at Clintonville Auto has seen photographs of the North Columbus Intramural League teams that the business has sponsored through the years.
The wall behind the register is adorned with photos of the past 19 — all that the space could accommodate.
“We have an electrical outlet, so that’s why we couldn’t get 20,” said owner Paul Marquardt, a Hilliard resident.
Customers, he said, are drawn to the pictures.
“People are just like ‘Wow, that’s a lot.’ It’s a fun thing to have up.”
He has long supported youth baseball, he said, for one key reason:
“It’s for the kids. Their whole worlds revolve around the baseball team for a summer.”
Marquardt played in the Rainbow League in Amherst, Ohio, where he grew up.
“Almost everyone .?.?. (played) at one point,” he said. “And that’s when you decide if you like it.”
• Byrne’s Pub, 1248 W. 3rd Ave.; and Horizon Insurance Services, 5151 Reed Rd., Suite 201-A
Parent. Coach. League sponsor. League board member.
Brian Byrne does it all.
The 42-year-old coach of the Reds, on which 8-year-old son James plays, sponsors the North Columbus Intramural League team through his Grandview Heights business, Byrne’s Pub.
His Northwest Side business, Horizon, sponsors the Pirates — for whom he serves as the assistant coach and son Jack, 10, plays.
Byrne also serves on the league board.
Coaching, he said, keeps him connected.
“You just really feel like you’re involved in the kids’ lives.”
The self-described Cincinnati Reds fan began playing ball in middle school at Immaculate Conception — and, as a parent and business owner, he enjoys the involvement that it still affords him.
“To know you’re helping out a league or community .?.?. and to actually see kids enjoying baseball is really cool.”