It's that time of year for area children to play ball.
Most of the area little leagues will be kicking off the 2012 season with their Opening Day festivities on April 14.
But as the dozens of teams begin practices and prepare for games, there will be some community supporters cheering them on from the sidelines.
Carlisle Area Little League alone has about 300 local players from kindergarten through eighth grades, and well more than 20 area businesses are serving as sponsors to the 28 Carlisle Area Little League teams this season, which include T-ball, Instructional, Advanced Instructional, Minor, Major and Junior divisions. Some of these companies, including Griffie & Associates, a law firm located on North Hanover Street in downtown Carlisle, have been supporting the Carlisle Area Little League for many years.
Griffie & Associates, for example, has supported the league since 1991, when owner Brad Griffie’s oldest son started to play on a team.
"Basically, I started (sponsoring) shortly after my oldest son started playing T-ball," Griffie said.
Griffie continued to sponsor, two teams a year, as all four of his sons participated in the Carlisle Area Little League. He also helped coach the teams on which his sons participated and served as the league president for six years.
"I just really think it’s important," he said of supporting the league. "Those are good programs, youth sports programs. It’s so important that kids have something like that. There’s a lot of stuff that is learned in almost all youth sports, so anything I can do to help keep those things going is important to me. It’s important to me that the little league stays strong and is available at a reasonable cost. I’ll be sponsoring teams with Little League basically forever."
It’s also an opportunity for sponsors to show that they support the community and the children.
"We see it as an opportunity to give back to the community," said Troy Fluss, owner of Fluss Flooring, which has been sponsoring the league for multiple years. "We get to feel good about giving back to the community. That’s why we do it."
Monies raised from the community sponsorships are put toward baseball equipment, field maintenance, bleachers, dugouts and other team expenses. The sponsorships basically fund all of the necessary equipment and maintenance for the little leagues, which are often nonprofits and volunteer-based.
"For us, the sponsorships are crucial," said Joy Aumiller, president of the Hampden Youth Baseball Association’s executive board. She added that sponsorships and donors also help keep registration fees down.
"In doing so, our kids can (play) baseball for less than $100 a season," Aumiller said. "Sponsors are key (and) enable us to reach the most kids possible."
The same is true of sponsorships for the Upper Allen Baseball Association.
"As a nonprofit organization, the sponsors provide an important source of funds that we need to run the league," said Doug Marsico, the commissioner on the association’s board. "The money that we raise via sponsors is an important resource in paying for the costs to run the league including providing uniforms, equipment, training aids, paying for umpires and field maintenance. Importantly, money from sponsors helps us keep our registration fees down as much as possible."
Being able to give money not only allows more children to participate at lower costs, but it also strengthens the relationship between the sponsors and the people involved in the game.
"We’ve actually had good strong relationships with people who are involved in the South Middleton little league," said Jake Raudabaugh, owner of Fine Line Auto Body in Carlisle, who sponsors a South Middleton Youth Baseball team and a banner. "I feel that’s a good way to give back. I really feel it works for us as a business, too."
Jay Farnham, the co-owner of Farnham Insurance in Mechanicsburg, said his business sponsors the Mechanicsburg Little League for similar reasons.
Farnham served as treasurer and later vice president of the little league when his son was involved and decided to serve as a sponsor.
"To be honest with you, our agency, we’re not looking for any more business," Farnham said. "We just do it to help with the little league. I know how tough it can be so we do it just to help out the local organizations," he said. "It’s just helping the community out and getting people together."
For sponsors, it sometimes boils down to just seeing the children have fun on the diamond.
"As an attorney, I’ve done a lot of family law. I see a lot of really bad situations," Griffie said, adding that participation can often be an "emotional way out of a bad situation."
"I know how positive a program (this) is," he said. "Their hearts are really in it. You’ll find people that feel this is a really positive thing."