The following letter was received from Bob Stabb, a member of Dundalk United a group formed by members of the community who oppose the sale of the North Point Government Center Park for commercial development.
Mr. Stabb was also the former Director of Baltimore County Recreation and Parks. Prior to that position Mr. Stabb also served as a Delegate in Annapolis.
The letter was published as written.
North Point Government Center Park
November 1, 2019
North Point has been more than a facility to the Dundalk Community. It has, in many cases, been the lifeblood of the people who live in the community. It has been a sanctuary to tens of thousands of youth and adults and has helped to shape the lives of both youth and adults.
I recently nominated several volunteers from the Eastfield community for special recognition, who have helped to shape the lives of our youth. The following is a quote from one of those individuals, Mike Bilecki, a star pitcher for 14 years with the Chicago Cubs Professional Baseball Team. To quote Mike: “These teams were recruited from all over and Mr. Sonny’s (Yeager) teams were just us local kids who wanted to play for him. They knew they had a game on their hands when we showed up. Everyone wanted to play hard for Mr. Sonny. He was our summertime, Dad. We all wanted to make him proud. My Dad rarely got to see me play because he was constantly working at Sparrows Point and doing as much overtime as he could to make ends meet.
My personal story with Mr. Sonny goes back to the summer of 1967. I was the chubby kid who was required to play two innings. Right field was where you tried to hide your worst player. This game I had a few balls hit out to me which I missed, the balls got by me and rolled to the hotdog stand. My teammates were yelling at me and I would fire the ball towards home plate and sail it over the backstop. We had lost the game because of me and I was sitting on the end of the bench hating the game and my teammates.
Seeing my despondence, Mr. Sonny, who was the coach of the other team, did not even know me, brought my coach over to cheer me up. He said to us, “You know Brian, Mike needs a lot of work in the outfield and hitting, (an understatement), but how many kids can throw the ball from the hotdog stand over the backstop? I don’t know of many. Why don’t you try him out next time as a pitcher?” Now I was a little scared because the pitcher was usually the best player. At first, I didn’t want to but Brian said we can try it out in the next few games if we had the chance. I said OK, I guess it couldn’t get any worse. I remember that day like it was yesterday. So in a few days, I got to pitch the last inning of the game. Brian said just play catch with the catcher and threw it as hard as you can. I was a little wild but it just seemed so close. As I settled down a little I began to throw strikes.
The season was ending and I started looking forward to the next game instead of dreading it. The next season I was now “The Pitcher”, not the kid you had to play two innings. I made the all-star team every year after. I really believe if not for Mr. Sonny seeing a gift in me I didn’t know I had, I would have given up baseball and never gotten a scholarship to college and pitch 14 seasons in the Major Leagues. That was Mr. Sonny Yeager. I’m sure other kids have similar stories as well.”
There are many stories like Mike Bilecki, youngsters who went to college, and whose families could never have afforded it otherwise and got there as a result of the fine volunteer coaches they had as a youth. There were many others like Mike Barth, Ricky Oliver, Stu Ramedo, and Fuzzy Nelson who played for the Miami Dolphins. There were numerous others who received college scholarships in Lacrosse, Football, Wrestling, and Soccer.
North Point was not only known for sports. There are still programs utilizing the auditorium like the outstanding “The Sky’s The Limit” for challenged citizens conducting several plays per year and also conducts a summer program. The renowned “Chorus of the Chesapeake” and “Sweet Adelines” have been practicing at North Point for years.
During 2018, North Point has provided fields and facilities for 4957 participants with an attendance of over 690,036 and with the assistance of over 460 volunteers.
There are two major factors in being able to provide recreational experiences, Fields, and Facilities. Both can be available at the North Point Government Center Park.
The North Point experience today is one that affects the lives of tens of thousands of individuals both young and old in the area. I am sure it has had a positive influence on the area as a whole to deter drugs, vandalism, and juvenile crime. When we begin to curtail positive recreational pursuits, we had better be prepared to build more prisons!