PSL director confident about baseball and softball
By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen
Alvin Ward Sr., executive director of Athletics of the Detroit Public School League, has noticed the steady decline of both baseball and softball in the league over the last 20 years and says he is very happy that the sports are now making a slow, but steady comeback.
According to Ward, as far back as 1977, there were a lot of youth playing baseball and softball. There were even Major League Baseball and college scouts looking over local talent, he added.
He explained that over the last 20 years, a lot of teams were getting “slaughtered” by well-established teams, which discouraged student participation on the losing teams. Therefore, the league started to look for quality coaches and realigned the divisions.
For the game of softball, Ward said, quality coaches like Garrard Taylor (Renaissance), Julie Schneider (Cass Tech), Dan Wolan (Western International) and Debra Olesky (King) are doing a great job. He said their coaching and program structures are getting the girls to come out for most of the teams.
“We have coaches like Taylor, who not only helps his team but tries to reach out and help other teams in the league,” Ward said. “There’s still some work to do for the other teams, but I see progress being made.”
As for baseball, forming the Mega Division for the stronger teams (Western, King, Cass Tech and Renaissance) and the East-West Division with the rest of the teams has helped the league be competitive amongst its member schools.
Like softball, participation is up. He said having and hiring coaches like Norm Taylor (King), Juan Sanchez (Western) and Julius DuBose (Cass Tech) are only helping the league get better with quality coaching.
“What we’ve done to help baseball and softball is to get financial and coaching support,” Ward explained, adding that Keith Williams from Courageous, Inc., and the Detroit Tigers have given their support with finances and equipment.
“We hope to gain more financial support,” Ward said. “We’re trying to garner more funds to get baseball and softball back. There are resources out there to get financial help. We’re looking for support from the business community.”
As for coaching, Ward took a page from what the league did for football. “The reason why teams like Cass Tech were so successful in football is because of the coach’s clinics and camps we got involved in. We demanded all coaches to attend them if they want to get certified to coach in the league,” he said. “We’re doing the same for baseball and softball.
“We have terrific camps and clinics for coaches and players. These camps and clinics give our coaches and players the best teaching and coaching while getting our kids to develop their skills. When we see or hear about a camp or clinic, we recommend the coaches go.”
As for feeder programs in the DPS middle schools to help the high schools, Ward explained the resources aren’t there and is relying on other programs to feed into the prep baseball and softball programs.
“We don’t have the dollars to run middle school feeder programs,” he said. However, the league works with the Healthy Kidz/Legends League baseball/softball league in the spring and the Rosedale-Grandmont League, Detroit PAL, League Michigan and Healthy Kidz Lasky Field program in the summer. The league is currently looking for more feeder programs.
But Ward is concerned about the student population in the Detroit School system, which is in a steady decline. Without the increase of student enrollment, the PSL can’t be competitive with its Charter School, Catholic and suburban rivals, he said.
“The baseball/softball programs are growing but our numbers must go up,” Ward said. “We need to have parents bring their kids back to DPS so we can have the PSL again.”
“Parent participation is also a must,” he added. “We need the parents to bring the kids to and from practice so the kids can stay involved.”
As for facilities, Ward said the ball fields at King High will be ready for next season. As for baseball squads at Central and Southeastern, who didn’t play this past season, he said he has no control over what those schools do because they’re part of the state-controlled EAA and not DPS.
“Since we did these improvements, the last three years have (gone) very well,” Ward concluded. “The future is bright for baseball and softball in the PSL.”