The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 13, 2014

Youth league managers hit a homer

Persons of the week

JOHNSTOWN — Greater Johnstown Youth League is full of life, turning what had been an empty field along D Street in Lower Yoder Township into a modern baseball complex for boys and girls.

The park consists of two lighted baseball fields, each with a remote-control scoreboard, donated by the Pittsburgh Pirates; a playground; a pavilion; a two-story field house with restrooms; and two concession stands.

The league doesn’t just teach youngsters to play ball.

League members are raising money and seeking state grants to build a sidewalk and walking trail around the complex for the public, said Andy Kasper, a volunteer for 28 seasons.

The sidewalk also would make it safer for students to walk to Greater Johnstown Middle School, he said.

So far, he said, the league has raised $14,000 for the sidewalk and trail.

The league started to build the park in 1986, when it received permission from the township, which owned the land, to play games at the site.

The league has prospered because of the dedication of volunteers who helped to build and now maintain the complex; serve on the board of directors; act as coaches, managers and umpires; and work in the concession stands.

Students from Greater Johnstown High School installed the electrical wiring in the field house and constructed the pavilion.

Kasper, field manager, said the league has had good support from the township and the city of Johnstown when large field projects needed to be completed.

 “I enjoy having this for the youngsters,” he said about the park. “That’s the only reason why I am here.”

His sister, Cass Kasper, who also has been a volunteer for 28 years, enjoys being at the park.

“We do it for the children and for the love of the game,” said Cass Kasper, manager of the concession stands.

Craig Henry, league president for the past three seasons, said that in addition to great volunteers, the league is fortunate to have great sponsors.

“Baseball is a good sport,” said Henry, who has been with the league for 11 seasons.

“I’m doing this because I love it,” he said.

“I like helping the children and being with the children.”

Henry said values such as sportsmanship and teamwork that the game of baseball teaches are in agreement with the league’s motto, “Developing the youth of today for tomorrow.”

Henry said the Kaspers are the nucleus of the league.

“The way this league is today is because of Andy and his sister,” Henry said.

For their efforts, the Kaspers, both Morrellville residents, and Henry, of Southmont, are the Persons of the Week.

The chairman of the Lower Yoder supervisors, Joseph Turturica, said the league does a terrific job.

“All the grounds look great,” he said. “It’s an asset to the township.”

Regina Blanchetti, who was at the park last week watching her twin grandsons, Josh and Daniel Blanchetti, play in a tournament, said she was impressed with the park, ballplayers and the tournament.

Her grandsons play for Forest Hills, the team that took first place in the age 9-10 bracket.

Marge Plowchin, whose grandson, Jesse Plowchin, played in the league last year, likewise commended the volunteers.

“They are building Johnstown up,” she said about those who are teaching the youngsters to be good citizens and building a park for everyone to enjoy.

The league consists of 22 teams with 250 players from ages 4 to 16.

Starting today, the league is hosting a girls softball tournament for ages 12 and under and 10 and under.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @FrankNews10. Tribune-Democrat editors select a Person of the Week from nominations made by readers. To nominate someone, call 532-5058, 24 hours a day.

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