After Financial Disaster, Roberto Clemente League Picks Up The Pieces
Softball Tournament Planned To Raise More Money
By JENNA CARLESSO
July 11, 2011
HARTFORD —— Things looked bleak earlier this year for the Roberto Clemente Baseball League.
Due to financial mismanagement that is still being investigated by city police, the league was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. A new group of organizers that took over the league last winter was left to pick up the pieces.
But over the past few months, league officials received strong support from the community in the form of thousands of dollars in donations and new equipment.
Last month, the more than 400 children in the league, which sponsors teams for children ages 5 to 16, were able to start playing baseball again.
"I think we're heading in the right direction," said Mitchell Moreno, a volunteer coach who joined the league in March. "Things went on in the past that aren't going on now. It's become a well-oiled machine. Parents are showing up. The kids are having fun."
Although the league has raised enough money to stay afloat, it is still thousands of dollars in debt, officials said. The new league president, Efrain Bracero, has said more than $30,000 was missing when he took over in February, and it costs about $40,000 a year to operate the league.
So the league is organizing a softball tournament in Colt Park next weekend to raise more money.
At least six teams have already signed up to play in the tournament on July 16, including a group from the Hartford Police Department, and league officials hope more will join.
"Money should be the last thing these kids are worrying about," said Christy Heil, who is helping the league with fundraising. "They should be playing ball and having fun."
The cost to play in the tournament is $150 per team. Teams must have at least 10 players, 18 years old or older, and at least two must be women, Heil said. There is no deadline to register. The league is also seeking volunteer umpires for the tournament.
Last year's tournament drew about 500 people.
"Everyone just came out and donated," said Christopher Nezlo, a league commissioner. "The response we had was great."
Heil said the league still owes money for uniforms and other expenses it incurred last year. In addition to paying off debt, it must pay for umpires, trophies, the cost of renting office space on Arbor Street and fees to store equipment.
When new management took over the league, all of the equipment was gone. It had been auctioned off because no one paid the storage locker bill.
Nancy Mulroy, a spokeswoman for the Hartford Police Department, said police are continuing to investigate, but have not yet made any arrests.
Moreno said he hopes the league raises enough money to stay in operation.
"I grew up in Hartford," Moreno said. "I'm a product of this environment, and kids don't have a lot to do. If we can keep 10 kids off the street, I'm happy."
To get involved in the tournament or to donate to the league, contact Heil at 860-985-3994.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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