Faith and fun leads to league’s longevity

Amy Carton
Members of the Geneseo Church Softball League take to the fields at Richmond Hill for their weekly summer games on Monday and Tuesday nights.

Fellowship and fun for the whole family is what the Geneseo Church Softball League prides itself on, along with a little bit of friendly competition.

“It gives people something to do during the summer,” said Justin Snodgrass, president of the Church Softball League. “You can take the whole family up there to hang out with friends, meet new people and see people you don’t normally see.”

“I enjoy the camaraderie, it gets all the churches involved and we have good fellowship,” said Jim Heller, who has been playing for 35 years. “This league spans generations. You can play from the time you are in eighth grade on up until you want to stop. It also gives you the chance to play with your children and maybe possibly your grandchildren.”

The Geneseo Church Softball League began in 1976 by the Geneseo Ministerial Association with eight teams, but the league had as many as 18 teams in the mid 1980s.

“This league has always been based around family,” said Snodgrass. “Some kids have moved away and are now coming back with their families and you are also seeing new young families get involved.”

In the league’s 36th season, there are currently seven teams with teams from First Luthern?Church, Loraine United Methodist Church, St. Malachy’s Catholic Church, Erie Christian Church, Geneseo Evangelical Free Church, First United Methodist Church and Grace United Methodist Church.

“I enjoy the camaraderie with people from my church,” said Chad Ford, who watched his older brothers play, transitioned to a bat boy and now is a current member of the league. “It is fun to have this fellowship outside of church.”

The league invites area men ages 14 and up to compete on Monday and Tuesday nights at the Richmond Hill diamonds. Teams also compete in mid-season and end-of-the-season tournaments.

“It provides a great outlet for young men, married or single to get together and play,” said Dale Kiser, a former league member. “They also have fellowship with God and this league is like a small community.”

“This league is a good family thing and you get to play with and against your friends,” said Matt Shoemaker, who is in his 29th year of playing. “It is good for families because it is a church league so it keeps the alcohol and profanity out of the league. It is very family oriented with the playground right there. It is just easy to bring the kids out.”

“It is a worthwhile ministry to keep people involved and keeping the young people connected to the church,”?said Tom Mattan, who has played since he was 16. “They feel a connection through softball.”

This past spring, members of the league have been working on making improvements to the diamonds.

With help from donations from local businesses, the league improved the outfield fences, shingled the dugouts and fixed the dugout benches.

Interstate Fence, DeSplinter Construction and Blackhawk Foundation Co. Inc., all donated materials and labor to the league for the improvements.

“We donated labor and equipment and very little materials,” said Troy Waller, owner of Interstate Fence. “We just spruced it up.

“Justin called me to get quotes on repairs, but this was something we could handle to donate. There are not a lot of chances out there to help out  and I thought it was the perfect project.”

“We think it’s good for men to have a place to play sports and we thought it was a good thing to invest our money in for the community,” said Ken Pippin, owner of Blackhawk Foundation Co. Inc. and also a member of the league who has played for over 30 years.

“We shingled three dugouts and donated about a days worth of time,” said A. J. DeSplinter, co-owner of DeSplinter Construction. “My brother, Adam, plays church softball and we thought it was a good way to get our name out.”

The league also helped get the diamonds ready at the start of the season to help the city out, said Snodgrass. “The city also gets the fields chalked and ready for each game and we pay a fee for that,” he said.

In 2007, the league welcomed back a concession stand for players and fans.

The concession stand is run by Pearl?Circle at Grace United Methodist Church. The group donates its profits to different local missions or mission trips overseas.

“We first had a concession stand in the ‘70s and it was run by Joann Skelton and then by a church youth group,” said Cindy Pippin, concession stand coordinator. “After the youth group stopped offering the stand we were without one for a while and then in 2007 our Circle decided to give it a try and we have been doing it ever since.

“It is a service to the softball league and it also gives us a little money to help with missions. I also think it makes it more of a family outing and you can socialize with people from other churches.”

“I think there is a lot of support from the community by giving us a place to play and we have support from the churches with the fees,” said Snodgrass of why the league has been around as long as it has.

“This league definitely provides good witness to the Christian?faith and we are representing God in a setting outside of church,” said Ford.

“The league is a reason to get people together in a fun setting,” said Shoemaker. “And I keep coming back because of the tradition and this is where I started playing ball.”

“I still enjoy coming out to watch our church play and I still know some of players. I just enjoy watching,”?said Kiser.

“It is fun and a great outlet for fellowship for churches,” said Pippin. “Men and youth can be together for sports and the families are there, too.”

Softball Players pause for a prayer after the completion of the night’s game.