For around a thousand area youth, summer means one thing-the start of the Mid-Ohio Valley baseball league. But without the tireless work of one very important volunteer the league would not exist.
"Rex Foster takes care of a lot of kids. I can't tell you how many kids he's helped," said Steve Hill, who manages the Marietta Sluggers baseball league.
Foster, 52, of Vienna, founded the league around five years ago when his son was playing middle school ball. The goal, he said, was to help fill the lack of baseball opportunities between little league and junior high school baseball teams.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Mid-Ohio Valley Baseball League founder Rex Foster, left, chats with volunteers and players, from left, Brett Burns, 20, Wade Garrett, 15, and David Teters, 16, at a league game Tuesday.
"What happens after little league is there's really a void where kids can't play because lots of junior highs don't have teams. It seemed like kids were losing interest in baseball after little league. And I wanted to keep kids involved in baseball," Foster said.
Sports create a positive youth environment and are a great way to keep children and teens engaged and involved, added Foster, who works as an account executive for Time Warner Cable.
Though Foster is quick to give credit to an army of volunteers, he puts a lot of time into sorting out rosters, drawing up schedules and much, much more, said Randy Edge, United States Specialty Sports Associations West Virginia State Baseball director.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
Today marks the start of a new series in The Marietta Times. Paying it Forward will appear each Monday and will feature a local person who volunteers their time or who has given a helping hand in an outstanding way. Suggestions for Paying it Forward can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Rex gives of his time and often umpires the games that others do not want," said Edge.
But perhaps the greatest thing Foster has done is spread a deep sense of camaraderie to a vast baseball community, said Hill.
"He's created this league that has pulled several communities together. There's actually a really nice relationship between all these communities," he said.
When Foster started the league, area youth leagues were dwindling and some were faced with the prospect of playing the same team over and over again all summer, he recalled.
During its first year, the Mid-Ohio Valley Baseball League had one league and six or eight teams, Foster recalled. Now the association features four leagues (of different age groups) and 67 teams from nearby communities like Barlow-Vincent and Belpre and even communities as far as Bridgeport, W.Va.
As league founder and commissioner, Foster is responsible for it all.
Though Foster's son is no longer in the league, he sticks with it because of a love of baseball, he said.
"I do it because I enjoy baseball. It's a little bit time consuming, but if you like doing it it's a labor of love," he said.
Residence: Vienna, W.Va.
Founder and commissioner of the Mid-Ohio Valley Baseball League.
Volunteers his time to set teams, schedule the season and umpire games for the league, which serves around 1,000 area youth.