Maries R-2 directors approve middle school baseball

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

The Maries R-2 School District will have a middle school baseball team this year, thanks the handwork of Bland eighth-grader Isaiah Sullinger.

Sullinger presented the idea to the board at the Dec. 20, 2018, meeting, along with a list of students who were interested and area school districts with similar teams they could play. Board members Amy Kiso-Bledsoe and Garret Bialczyk made a motion and second last month to move forward with the team. However, the motion failed, and director Tom Kinsey II made a motion to table the item until this month to give the board a chance to look at the financial aspects of a team.

Sullinger came to the Jan. 17 meeting with more interest and information.

“I was told to come back this month, so the funding could be looked at,” Sullinger told the board as he handed out new information. “During that time, I worked for donations from businesses and people from the community.”

Sullinger said he visited locations in Belle asking for funding and sponsors for the team. Bruce Sassmann donated $100; Maries County Bank donate $250; Hicks Auto body donated $200; M.A.D.A.C. Inc., in Owensville (Elaine Campbell) $450, Tyler Ahring, $50, and the Booster Club approved $1,000 to help with uniforms and helmets. Butler’s Trucking has also pledged a donation.

Sullinger said more donations are expected.

“I talked to Bill Seamon to see if he would like to donate some practice and game balls, and he said he would love to,” Sullinger said. “I filled out a form (for the Booster Club) to see if they will sponsor the jerseys.”

Sullinger added that he spoke with other schools that said if the Maries R-2 District started a baseball team, they would look into starting one also.

“Crocker Middle School is doing the same as us right now,” Sullinger said. “They are going to the board to see about a middle school baseball team to start this year.”

Crocker has already scheduled games for the season, according to Sullinger’s contact. 

“We talked to Waynesville, and they said they would play us at home and away if it gets approved,” Sullinger said, adding that a third school was interested and Athletic Director Erik Logan said they would be interested.

Team practices for the spring season start in late February, games start in late March and end in late April. Some schools have two teams and two games each night that they play. However, two teams are not required.

“We talked to middle school StuCo and they said they would do concession stands for our home games,” he continued. “The equipment — Mr. (Chris) Feeler said that he has helmets for us, and we would have to get catchers gear and some (baseball) bats.”

Sullinger also had helmets at the presentation that could be donated for use. However, Superintendent Dr. Patrick Call said he was unsure if they would meet MSHSAA’s safety standards.

“The liability is enough, we would have to get our own helmets,” Call said. “Helmets aren’t too bad — $20 to $30 a piece.”

However, Call said uniforms were probably $20 to $40 for shirts and $25 to $40 for pants.

“It’s what kind of deal we can work out,” Call said. “There will be a little bit of cost for numbering the jerseys.”

Vice President Dawn Hicks asked if the Booster Club sponsored the uniforms, would they pay for the numbering also?

“So the uniforms that the Booster Club sponsors won’t actually cost us anything,” Hicks said.

Board members complimented Sullinger on his hard work.

“I can tell you that regardless of what this board decides, you should be very proud of yourself and your parents should be very proud of the work you put into this,” Kenda Sanders said. “This is a lot of work.”

Bialczyk told Sullinger his work was very impressive.

“I am sure the $1,000 he raised will be helpful,” Call said.

Sullinger added that he has other donations pending.

“Can we do it, yes we can,” Call said. “I just like to plan a little more. The one thing that really pushes us towards that is right now the girls at the middle school have one more sport than the boys. This would make that fair.”

Girls have volleyball, basketball, track, and cross country and the boys have basketball, track and cross country.

“My only concern is transportation and buses,” Hicks said. “Is that going to be do-able?”

Call said yes, one of the people who are willing to coach (Tim Edwards) also has their CDL license, which would save the district from finding a driver. Logan also offered to help.

“What type of games would be played, how long would they be gone, and would their school work suffer,” Kinsey asked. “That would be the other thing.”

Hicks said it would fall under the same rules as the high school. Students would have to maintain certain standard to play.

Middle School Principal Kristin Williams said the sport and curriculum requirements would actually be an incentive to students.

“To some of our ball players, it would be a big incentive if we brought in baseball,” Williams said.

A survey showed 18 kids in sixth grade, six kids in seventh grade and 11 in eighth grade were interested in playing. Students may only play six to eight games a season. A discussion on which schools they would play commenced. 

“If we start, there are other schools that say they may be interested,” Call said. “We can look again next season.” 

Sullinger said when they talked to Linn schools, they said they may look into it as well. He said Owensville has not responded yet, and St. James said they have not started a team because no one in the surrounding areas had done it yet.

“He said if Bland and Belle would do it, they would have a serious discussion about starting one too,” Sullinger said.

Kiso-Bledsoe advised Sullinger that Seamon, who donated the practice and game balls to the team, is a board member in Owensville, if he was interested in speaking with that board.

“I would like to make a motion we proceed this year — they are ready,” Kiso-Bledsoe said. “I see no reason to hold them back.”

Brent Stratman seconded the motion. Kinsey asked what the projected cost was, and Call said when he did the math, he did not know Sullinger had raised so many funds.

“It’s going to $4,000 to $5,000, but if that money does come in, we are looking more $3,000 to 4,000,” Call said. “We will be looking at less next year — minus the equipment.”

The board approved adding the team on a 6-0 vote.