In the Douglas County Amateur Baseball Assn., candy is truly dandy.
Candy sales are the lifeblood of DCABA, a self-sustaining youth baseball program with nearly 650 participants.
That number is less than half the youths who play baseball in the summer, however. Another 682 are enrolled in the city parks and recreation department program. Still another 454 youths participate in the city's softball program.
In other words, nearly 1,800 Lawrence youngsters spend summer days and nights swinging a bat at a ball.
What's good for the youth of Lawrence is also good for the economy of Lawrence because equipment costs money in some cases a lot of money and umpires don't work for free.
DCABA, NOW in its 23rd year, has 48 teams competing in three age groups at two levels major and minor. Officially, DCABA has 648 participants up 170 from two years ago.
DCABA's budget is $93,340 with the bulk $61,240 coming from candy bar sales. The candy costs DCABA $27,560 so the organization makes a profit of nearly $34,000 on those confections.
Still, DCABA needs another $10,000 from sponsors, $19,300 in players fees and another $2,500 from concession sales to stay out of the red. Like any other going concern, DCABA is also looking for ways to save money.
"This year we've bought equipment in bulk, not by individual teams, and saved about 20 percent," says Richard Chaney, a DCABA vice president who helped start the program back in 1970.
Equipment is costly, no doubt about it. What DCABA provides through candy sales and sponsors fees, mostly comes out of the taxpayer's pocket in the city program.
"OUR PROGRAM is not self-sustaining," says Christy Humerickhouse, the city's youth sports supervisor. "The city commission favors total fee support. There's going to come a time when fees cover the programs as well as the administrative part. Right now it doesn't come close."
In the city T-ball leagues for kindergarteners through second graders, the participation fee is $12. In the third- and fourth-grade age group it's $14. In the upper age division for fifth and sixth graders, the fee is $16.
With that money, the city provides each team with four bats, four or five batting helmets, plus a mask, chest protector and shin guards for catchers. In the upper level baseball league, a catchers mitt is also provided. Another item the city makes available to each team is a first-aid kit.
The total equipment bill for the city's 42 youth baseball and softball teams is about $3,500.
PRACTICALLY ALL the coaches, both in DCABA and the city program, are volunteers. The exceptions are four instructors the city provides in its beginners T-ball program. Those instructors work 30 hours a week for six weeks for $4.50 per hour for a total of $4,320.
The city also awards certificates of participation to the 1,000-plus youngsters in its program.
So the city's baseball and softball programs are clearly a bargain. But so is DCABA, even though the fees are higher.
DCABA charges $30 for the first child in family, $25 for each child after that. That money goes for an album, a yearbook, insurance and fees to YSI for use of its fields.
DCABA has outgrown its three-diamond complex at the 4-H Fairgrounds so it has to rent the two diamonds at YSI's complex. DCABA pays no rent to the county for use of the Fairgrounds, but does pay the light bill and for maintenance.
The league operates off its sponsors and the candy sales.
SELLING CANDY isn't mandatory for participation. However, if a youngster peddles at least nine bars, he's entitled to go to DCABA Night at the Royals.
"We're the second largest group that participates in a Royals' night," Chaney said.
This year DCABA Night was June 1. As an added incentive, the DCABA player who sold the most candy bars threw out the first pitch. The top salesman unloaded 1,036 candy bars.
DCABA's biggest expense $13,000 goes for umpires. Sponsors pay for all the equipment except shoes and gloves.
While DCABA has had to expand to YSI, the city has been able to squeeze its program into existing facilities.
T-ball is played at Deerfield Park almost every night and on Saturday mornings. Mid-level baseball and softball is played at the high school field, which isn't ideal because it doesn't have an outfield fence.
Upper level baseball is played at Holcom Red and at Broken Arrow. Top level softball is at Woody and the high school, while junior high softball league games are played at Broken Arrow.
A COMMON misconception is that the city program is a vast dumping ground for youths unable to make a team in DCABA. That's not necessarily the case.
"It depends on who you talk to," Humerickhouse said. "Some people say (city participants) are only the ones who couldn't make DCABA. Others say they're happy there's a program available where a kid can't be cut and be devastated."
No doubt sensitive to breaking a kid's heart, DCABA expanded a few years ago, adding a minor-league division for each age group.
Today a DCABA hopeful still faces the possibility of not making a major-league roster, but the depression of being assigned to a minor-league club, Chaney says, is short-lived.
"I don't think that's a problem," he said. "A lot of them ask to be put on minor-league teams. My oldest son is on a minor-league team and to me there's less pressure. Some kids just need time.
"I don't think major-minor is a big deal. A kid can feel down on the one day (he's cut), but after that they can look up and say they're playing the same number of games and doing the same things."
DCABA has worked hard to soften its image as an elitist program. Clearly, it is committed to quality, but DCABA recognizes the need for quantity, too.
BY ADDING more teams, though, it has to come up with more and more sponsors.
"That's a big chore," Chaney said. "We had to get 13 new ones this year. One team's sponsor is listed as DCABA because several people gave us $50 to sponsor a team."
Most sponsors pay $250 to $300 a year, plus the cost of equipment.
DCABA is run by a nine-member board that will probably increase to 11 next year.
"I don't think people realize the time it takes," Chaney said. "It's almost like another job."