Let’s play ball: Local league ministers to youth
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015
For the past 30 years, Union Baptist Church has sponsored a softball league ministry for young adults.
Current Commissioner and Ball-Committee Chairman Mark Adam said the league was established in 1985 by Verla Spence. It’s one of the largest church softball leagues in South Mississippi, he said.
“The founders wanted to give their children an opportunity to play ball without dealing with some of the negativity players might find in other leagues,” Adam said. “They wanted to provide a family friendly environment.”
The league, which began with one team, has since grown to include 23 teams, Adam said.
This year, Adam said, there are 388 male and female youth players from 37 area churches.
Three categories of the sport are played in the league including tee-ball for children ages 4 to 7-years-old, coach pitched softball for youth ages 8 to 10-years-old and American Softball Association slow-pitch softball for youth from 11 to 19-years-old, Adam said.
“The main purpose of our league is to share the gospel with the players and families who attend the games,” Adam said. “We write our own devotion series for this ministry. A ministry is read over the speakers pre-game and after the game, the coach teaches a longer, more in-depth lesson.”
The league hosts games two months every year, beginning with opening day on the second Saturday of March and closing day, which is held the third Saturday in May. The teams play 145 games during the season and games are held on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings so as not to interfere with church services, Adam said.
All the coaches and workers are volunteers, Adam said. However, some of the teenagers working the concession stand earn an hourly wage to be put towards summer missionary trips.
The league is self-sufficient so it does not rely on funding from any religious or government organization, Adam said.
“The league hosts tournaments to raise money for special needs,” Adam said. “A couple of youth went on mission trips to Africa and North Carolina. During another tournament, funds were raised for a couple in debt financially due to a terminal illness. More than $6,700 was raised for these causes.”
Adam coaches two teams, serves as umpire, performs devotions and works the concessions. All of the league’s volunteers wear many hats, he said.
During his youth, Adam did not play for this league. Instead, he played for leagues in New Orleans, Louisiana and Ocean Springs where he witnessed firsthand the violence and profane language children are exposed to in some leagues.
“Nine-years ago I was saved and became a church member,” Adam said. “There’s a need for this league and every young adult gets the opportunity to play. This is what I feel called by God to do as a ministry in our church.”
Chris Spence was an original member of the Union Baptist Church Ball Ministry when he was 6-years-old.
“It’s was a wonderful experience,” Spence said. “Being a part of the Christian-oriented league taught me teamwork and fellowship. I played for 11 years. I played in other community sports leagues and noticed a difference in the conduct of players and parents. It was a great time full of precious memories and I hope they continue it for years to come.”
The league is open to youth in the surrounding areas, Adam said. Registration costs $35, which includes a T-shirt, insurance and an end of the season award. Registration opens in January and ends the third Saturday in February.
Admission to games is free and concessions are sold during the games, Adam said. Games are played at the field located at 1628 W. Union Rd., Picayune.
For more information about the league contact the church office at 601-798-6470 and through Facebook at UBC Ball Ministry.
The league is hosting a tournament on May 2 from 7 a.m. to noon, Adam said. The entry fee per team is $200. On May 1, the league is also hosting a Homerun Derby, with a $10 entry fee. All proceeds raised will be put towards Brittany Spence’s mission trip to Thailand’s Red Light District to share God’s love with the young men and women trapped in the sex trade, Adam said.