“Strike one!” yelled the players on the field. The pitcher wound up and delivered again. This time it was a hit right past the second baseman. The centerfielder backed up the play and relayed the ball to second. The second baseman was ready to make a tag when he noticed the runner still had the bat in his hands. “This is not cricket; drop the bat!” yelled one of the runners’ teammates. The runner was an adult Rotarian. The second baseman was an 11-year-old Little Leaguer. Rotary St. Maarten was playing a “fun” softball game with the children. They were celebrating the completion of a “painting party.”
Rotary is a worldwide service organization dedicated to bringing business and professional leaders together to advance goodwill and peace. Rotary St. Maarten believes service can also be fun. Rotary St. Maarten not only likes to contribute to community organizations, but also to pitch in and really help with the work. Rotary donated a 40-foot truck container to the Little League Player Development Program. The container will be converted into a science lab and used to help teach to the young athletes in the afterschool program, but before the children start their baseball practice. The container complements the program’s 20-foot container that is used as a gym, and a 40-foot container called “The Clubhouse” used for reading and math.
Members of the Rotary gathered a couple of Saturdays ago to work side by side with Little Leaguers to turn the reddish-brown container into a blue with yellow trim science lab. Rotarian John Caputo organized the painting into a party with music, barbecued hot dogs and burgers and a softball game. It was deemed safer than baseball, as the adults were unsure how hard the Little Leaguers would throw and hit.
St. Maarten Rotary Club president Jeffrey “Soc” Sochrin said, “My dad has been a high school baseball coach in the US for almost 50 years. I have seen first-hand what athletics mean to our youth; and if athletics encourage our young athletes to stay in school and study, so they can participate on the ballfield, we are doing something right. Not everyone can be a professional athlete, but lessons we learn through sports, such as teamwork, good sportsmanship, hard work and the importance of staying physically fit are important life lessons regardless of one's chosen profession.”
Prior to the opening of the paint cans and the starting of the barbecue grill, members of the Rotary sat with the boys and girls ranging in age from seven to 12 to help them with reading and math. The Rotarians also toured the science lab to see for themselves the displays and interactive projects, including fossils complete with a dig area where the athletes can use small paint brushes to unearth plastic bones and reconstruct the dinosaur. There is a microscope, an electricity section featuring solar, wind, battery and even hand generators. There is an astronomy section and a chemistry set.
“By encouraging our young adults to participate in sport and stay in school with good academic habits, we are preparing our small island country for a successful future with future leaders that can make a difference,” said Sochrin. “The efforts of the St. Maarten Little League are an example of one such endeavour to make this dream a reality.”
At last, the paint cans were opened and brushes and rollers distributed. The children painted the low sections and the adults the top. Among the helpers was Rosie the Saturday dog. The boys had found Rosie sick and near death one Saturday back in March. The children wanted to help the mange-covered creature. Animal Defenders Foundation was called and the dog was taken to the vet for medical attention. Two weeks later with hair starting to grow, the dog, which the team named Rosie, returned to the field and is now the team mascot, always in attendance on Saturdays.
During the softball game, the little dog raced around the bases with the children. During the eating, she showed off her ability to shake hands for a bit of burger or hot dog. During the painting, she managed to get a blue stripe of paint down her back. No sooner had she been cleaned up than she appeared with a yellow stripe. The team decided to change the dog’s name from Rosie-the-Saturday-Dog to Rosie-the-Rotary-Dog as blue and yellow are the Rotary colours. Sherwin Williams St. Maarten donated the paint.
“The Rotary Club of St. Maarten is proud to be part of this effort, even if only in a very small way," said Sochrin. Since the “paint party”, individual Rotary members have stopped by the field in the afternoons from 2:30 to 5:00 to help the children with their academics and to donate more books.