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The season that almost wasn't

Thursday, September 2, 2010

For many small communities across the state of Missouri, the local high school plays an important role in its life and entertainment.

Recent budget shortfalls and declining state revenues have forced many schools to make cuts in order to remain solvent. The Purdy R-2 School District was not exempt from those circumstances.

Last May, the Purdy School Board voted to cut $103,729 from the school's 2010-11 budget. Of those cuts was $6,195 for the fall baseball program.

"Since some schools around Missouri are too small to have a football program, they banded together to play a fall baseball season," said Purdy Baseball Coach Joshua Hughes.

The School Board reasoned that since fall baseball results do not count toward state rankings, it was expendable.

"My first thought was, we have to keep fall baseball," Hughes said, "In my six years of being the team's coach, we've won three district titles and four conference titles in the regular season held in the spring. I believe those accomplishments are a direct result of playing in the fall."

According to a story in The Monett Times that ran May 27, 2009, Purdy School Board member Ed Mareth was "approached by a patron about covering the cost of continuing fall baseball."
Mareth proposed that the board allow fall baseball to continue if students, parents and community members could raise the money through their own private fundraisers.

The board allowed the option and fall baseball advocates were faced with the challenge of raising $6,500 and keep the program.

"I was going to do whatever it took to raise the money," Hughes said. "If it was going to take five fundraisers we would have, five fundraisers."

Coach Hughes did not have trouble finding help with his fundraising task.

"I love baseball," Riley Veith, a senior on the team, said. "Knowing we had to raise the funds motivated me to work harder. I believe that fall ball is necessary. It prepares us for the spring and gives us something to do in the fall."

Purdy senior Kevin Miller echoed his teammate's sentiment.

"When we were told that we needed to raise $6,500, I thought, let's do it,"Miller said.

"The support we received from the community was tremendous," Hughes added. "We only needed to host two fundraisers to raise the needed funds. We hosted a baseball-softball tournament and a 5K run.

"The boys umpired all the games, and parents worked in the concession stands," Hughes said "We charged two dollars for admission to the games and had a huge turnout. Several people and area business made donations to help out."

One of those businesses was Country Corner.

"We try to support all of our local teams," said a Country Corner Management representative. "We believe that all students should have some sort of ownership in their respective sport or school activity. The young men wanted to raise the money, and they worked hard to earn the money. They earned the right to play this year, and we respect that.

"We supported these kids, because of its importance to this community. These kids are learning more that a sport. They are learning teamwork, responsibility and leadership skills. We may not see those results today, but 10 to 15 years when they become leaders in our community it will pay dividends," the representative added.

"We have so many people to thank," Hughes said. "We are fortunate to live in such a supportive community.

"We will have to continue to raise money until funding can be restored," Hughes said. "Stuart Lombard of BallPark Graphics in Wheaton created window stickers that we are selling for $6. We are also planning additional fundraisers.

"The Purdy community has always stepped up when a need had arisen." Hughes said. "The baseball team and I say thank you.

The Eagles fall baseball team is currently undefeated (4-0) and has already started raising the funds for next year's team.

Murray Bishoff of The Monett Times staff also contributed information for this story.

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