Tag: Robert Jay

Maywood Approves >$100K in Backpay for Wrongfully Terminated Worker

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews  

During a Sept. 19 regular meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees approved a payment of $106,128.13 in backpay to a village employee who alleged that he was wrongfully terminated in 2014. He has since been reinstated.

The board voted 5 to 1 in favor of the settlement, with Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins the lone dissenting vote. Maywood Trustee Melvin Lightford was absent.

Continue reading “Maywood Approves >$100K in Backpay for Wrongfully Terminated Worker”

The Maywood-Bellwood Little League Has a Mission: To Revive Youth Baseball

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Maywood-Bellwood Little League baseball players have fun during a July 15 award ceremony and outing at Stevenson Park in Bellwood. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Thursday, July 20, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Byron Banks, 32, looked out at the baseball diamonds at Stevenson/Memorial Park, 3101 Washington Blvd. in Bellwood, last Saturday and recalled his own playing days.

“When we were playing on these fields, there were [at least 16 teams in different divisions],” said Banks, who was a star pitcher in the majors division for Central Credit Union back in the days Bellwood youth baseball teams were named after the businesses sponsoring them — businesses like BorgWarner and Mickey’s Drive-in.

Banks played baseball for Proviso East High School before going off to play for Indiana University and, after transferring, Grambling State University.

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Kids cool off in the sprinklers at Stevenson Park in Bellwood on July 15 during a post-season outing for the Maywood-Bellwood Little League. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

“I came back from college and this is what it was like,” Banks said, pointing to a swath of empty park. “I have no idea what happened. I think it may have been a lot of different things.”

The lack of a strong baseball league in either Maywood or Bellwood presented an opening for Banks, a member of Athletic Konnection, a nonprofit that focuses on developing the skills and character of young athletes in Proviso Township.

The organization was formed from a bond between Banks and some of his former teammates, many of which he spent his formative years playing with, and against, in the community, in high school and in college. They represent multiple sports, including baseball and football.

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There were nearly 50 participants in the league’s debut season said Speed Alexander, the league’s president. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Last year, members of AK teamed up with Speed Alexander, the head of the Maywood B.U.C.S. youth sports organization, to create the Maywood-Bellwood Little League. Banks is a board member while Alexander is the league’s president.

“There are a lot of kids out here who have some very tough situations at home. My goal is to give kids a chance to be kids while they’re still young,” Alexander said on July 15 at Stevenson Park during an awards ceremony for the players who participated in the league’s debut season.

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“My goal is to give kids a chance to be kids while they’re still young,” said Speed Alexander. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Alexander said that the league fielded 49 kids on three different teams comprising players ages five and six, seven and eight, and nine and 10.

“The Bellwood program was so strong at one time that they never participated in Little League,” Alexander explained. “So, since they didn’t have a Little League charter and I do, we sat down and said, ‘Let’s combine both leagues since our numbers are so low.'”

Alexander said he doesn’t believe Maywood or Bellwood fielded a baseball team at all last year. In Maywood, he said, there were two teams fielded in 2015.

Robert Jay, whose four grandchildren participated in the Maywood-Bellwood Little League this year, helped coordinate a baseball league formed by the Maywood Sports Association in 2015.

The league was made of a pee wee team for kids ages four to six years old; a minor league team for kids ages seven to eight years old; and a Little League team for kids ages nine to 12 years old.Robert Jay.jpg


Robert Jay, who helped organize a baseball league in Maywood that lasted for two years, has four grandchildren in the new Maywood-Bellwood Little League. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Jay said that the MSA had a difficult time recruiting young people to be in the league. And if they enrolled, he said, they had a hard time retaining them. Jay attributed some of the problem with recruiting and retaining baseball players to the overlapping seasons of different sports.

“We got too many sports going on at one time,” Jay said. “Last year, I had nine kids. Four of them were committed to baseball and football. If practices were at the same time, they went to football.”

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A child revels in the sprinklers at Bellwood’s Stevenson Park on July 15. | Sebastian Hidalgo

Alexander said that the partnership with Athletic Konnection, in addition to growing partnerships with athletic entities in other communities, helped make the Little League’s first year a success.

“We told ourselves that if Byron and these guys who have played at the college and pro level can combine with us and put it together, if we can connect and pull our resources together, we can bring baseball back,” Alexander said.

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Letting kids be kids is the league’s goal, said Alexander. Last Saturday, the kids were kids. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Banks said that if the newly formed league is to be around for the indefinite future, local businesses need to get back into the picture. Revenue from sponsors can help offset the costs involved in fielding teams.

Although the league charges $80 per youth for each season and has launched numerous fundraisers, the money doesn’t rise to what businesses can bring to the table, league officials indicated.

“We need the support of businesses who can sponsor teams,” Banks said. “Back in the day, every team used to have a sponsor. Your funding comes from businesses who sponsor us. The sponsorship opportunities start at $300 and go up from there.”

In the meantime, the future looks bright, said Banks, who said that nearly 90 young people have registered Athletic Konnection’s second annual baseball camp that will be held the weekend of July 22.

“People are seeing what we’re doing and we look to grow tremendously,” said Alexander. VFP

Coming Up

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Field of Memories: One Group of Guys Tries Reviving A Maywood Pastime

Screenshot 2014-08-22 at 4.47.06 PM(Softball players pray before each Sunday of games begins. The Maywood School Sports Association will host softball games at Winfield Scott Park each Sunday, 3 PM, until September 7. Below, organizer Billy Fowlkes, left, with fellow player Kevin Jay. Photograph by Michael Romain for the Village Free Press).

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Friday, August 22, 2014 || By Michael Romain

MAYWOOD — Here on the Winfield Scott baseball diamond, a twelve-inch softball had been hit hard past first base, flirted airily with the foul line and landed into the outfield like a bomb.

“Foul ball!” one player on the batting team insisted, although he was near home plate.

The fielding team immediately disputed the assertion and a big argument erupted, culminating into a playfully tense standoff at first base between two heated factions of mostly middle-aged men.

The crowd of spectators hooted and laughed and egged some of the men on. Some watchers threw up their hands in mock indignation at the spectacle of the men arguing, each side spewing humorously executed insults and rhythmic curses at the other. One man walked over to the fence and grinned rascally at his audience, gesturing with his fingers as if tallying something.

“I’m like the sergeant-at-arms out here,” said Linda Jones, who was the person at whom the man’s grinning and gesturing was directed. “When they start that cussing, they have to give me a quarter for every swear word,” she said laughing, but serious. “You got kids out here and ladies, plus it’s not necessary to have a good time.”

During the great foul ball debate, several people had called for the game’s chief organizer — Billy Fowlkes. Fowlkes, who had taken off about twenty minutes earlier to get food for the grill in the dugout, suddenly reappeared with plastic bags just as the confrontation was reaching a fever pitch.

“We need an umpire!” he shouted, and several minutes later the game was back underway, with a neutral party assigned to police the foul lines. Throughout the argumentation, the sense of fellowship never waned. Out here, even the disagreements are enjoyable. This is just like old times.

Fowlkes said that a couple of friends had talked to him about bringing baseball back and relied on him to work his extensive community connections to make it happen.

“I made a few calls and posted on Facebook, posted on the internet, and just asked everybody to get on out here and come on back,” he said. “We haven’t played in twenty something years, so this is our fifth week and each time we come it’s a bigger crowd. We’re doing this to show that something positive can come out of Maywood.”

Fowlkes said that his generation grew up on baseball games at Winfield Park and other diamonds across the Village. They had been a community tradition for more than forty years, he said, until they stopped happening about two decades ago. Fowlkes and his co-organizers want to restart that rich tradition for the present generation, even though most of the people who have come out to play so far have been older men, and even several women and young adults, looking to rekindle something from their past.

“This is a long line of baseball,” said Robert Fowlkes, Billy’s cousin. “We started out playing on Washington School’s flat top, then we moved to Winfield Scott [and other fields],” he said. “We’re trying to recapture the past we had.”

The game is played based on a ten-run rule. The team that gets ten runs first wins. Every team must have a woman on it. Anybody who comes out to the parks can pick his or her team and play, somewhat like a pickup game of basketball.

Since that fifth Sunday, Fowlkes and his team have formalized their operation. They went to local business owner Vena Nelson, who has an MBA from the University Chicago, and asked her to market them. With Nelson’s help, Fowlkes and his team former athletes, which includes Louis Smith, Robert Jay and Robert Fowlkes, have branded themselves into the Maywood Old School Sports Association. They have an email address and website. At the recent Old Timers Picnic last Saturday, some of them manned a table that was decked out with a laminated banner and flyers advertising the organization’s purpose.

“We’re doing this to inspire the kids,” said Robert. “The goal is to get the Little League started back and raise funds for our kids.”

Billy Fowlkes said that he hopes more younger people will get involved with the games. In the meantime, he noted, the presence of crowds of people being active, engaging peacefully and with dignity and mutual respect is inspiring enough. At a recent board meeting, Maywood resident Gloria Clay, a commissioner and former trustee, lauded the group’s efforts.

“I’m encouraging and asking the Board to please make it out there,” she said during public comments. “No matter where you stop, there’s something to eat and they make you welcome it. I would urge our Board, our Mayor, anyone to go out there and just witness what fellowship and friendship is all about….It’s amazing.” VFP

The Maywood Old School Sports Association will host softball games at Winfield Scott Park (17th Avenue and Maywood Drive) each Sunday, 3 PM, until September 7. On September 6 and 7, the organization will host a 12” softball tournament. Registration is $150 per team and must be completed by August 31. For more information on registration and game rules, visit the website here

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