Diamond Club improves softball, baseball seasons
Whether you're talking about Major League Baseball or little league baseball, it takes money to put together a team.
There are uniforms to buy, transportation to fund and facilities to maintain.
While Eudora High School budgets a certain amount of money for such things, there are some things for which they don't have the money.
So five years ago when Eudora High School Activities Director Dave Durkin found himself short of the funds to put the finishing touches on new baseball and softball fields, he called Eric and Marge Epperson, parents of then EHS sophomore softball player Kelsey.
"At the end of the year, there's not as much money as when we started," Durkin said. "In fact, we're running on fumes by this time of year; we're running on the money we've got from gate receipts. We've got great facilities, the uniforms are all good, but the Diamond Club gives them some stuff that I can't."
The Eppersons started the Diamond Club, and their main goals that first year were to fully enclose outfields and provide a windscreen.
They were able to accomplish their goals by following the lead of EHS Football's Twelfth Man, who provides support for the football team via sponsorships from local businesses.
The Diamond Club also has purchased signs for the outfield fences that read "Home of the Cardinals."
While facility improvements were important to the Diamond Club, organizer Marge Epperson said the club also wanted to make sure the members of each team enjoyed their time playing for EHS. The club also has bought equipment for the teams, paid for coaches to go to coaching clinics and purchased statistics software for both teams.
"We wanted to help the facilities, but we also wanted to enhance the experience of the kids, too," Epperson said.
One of the ways the organizations enhances each player's experience occur at the beginning of the year with a pizza feed sponsored by Simple Simon's Pizza.
"Eric and I are just really big into getting the kids doing activities together and keeping them unified," Epperson said.
Durkin said it was a great way to kick off the season and something all the players looked forward to.
Another way the Diamond Club tries to make the season more fun is by having an inter-squad, coed kickball game on the Sunday before regionals start. The community also is invited to come and watch the game.
"We were out at Wal-Mart one night and saw this huge kickball that was painted like a baseball and it just spurred our minds," Epperson said.
The game also serves as a way to raise awareness for the baseball and softball programs
"We try to promote it as a community event," Epperson said. "We have enough hotdogs and hamburgers to feed 200 to 300 people.
While the baseball and softball programs are the recipients of most of the funds the Diamond Club procures, it also provides for other high school sports teams.
"There are some programs that aren't as fortunate as football, softball and baseball, so we've given back to the basketball program and the volleyball program," Epperson said.
For instance, the club had a banner made for the volleyball team at its first state game, as well as providing a tailgate for year's girls basketball sub-state championship game.
The Diamond Club currently has 18 sponsors, but would like to get 25.
"Eudora is so small and the participation of the businesses is just incredible," Epperson said. "I know they're getting hit up and it is just amazing what they continue to give."
Sponsorships are $150 each and include a banner, which will hang on the outside of the baseball or softball fences during the season.
Banners go up before first home game and throughout any postseason play.
Over time, the club has realized some parents just want to give a cash donation. While the club appreciates such gestures, individuals also could give of their time.
"We are always looking for folks to help with making the phone calls or sending out the letters," Epperson said. "Or with the kickball, we're always looking for people to help cook all of the food."
Although their other daughter Haley, who is a standout on the volleyball and basketball teams, does not participate in softball and will graduate next year, the Eppersons still plan on being a part of the Diamond Club. However, they might look to hand off the leadership duties.
"We would never let it go," Epperson said. "Eric and I are too much into sports that we'll probably keep coming to back to watch them play. Hopefully, we'll be able to pass the baton over to somebody at some point. But it's been neat to build it up and be able to give money back."
For more information or to make a donation, call Marge and Eric Epperson at 542-3342 or Dave Durkin at 542-4980.