Volunteering: Giving back can be catching

 Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Every summer, Michael Browning spends his free time at Mason Park in Mount Sterling. The youth league volunteer wouldn’t have it any other way.

When he was 5 or so, Michael Browning played catcher for his T-ball team in Mount Sterling.

“I was so small, all you could see was this big stack of equipment sitting behind home plate,” he said.

Browning is all grown up now, but he’s still devoted to baseball in his hometown. He has spent the past five years as a volunteer coach in the Mount Sterling Youth Athletic Association. This year, he also is serving as association president.

“I played baseball at Veterans Field in my youth. We had great coaches and volunteers then, and I looked up to them,” he said.

After graduating from Madison-Plains High School and going to college, Browning knew he wanted to return to the youth athletics scene.

“My ultimate goal was to get back to Mount Sterling where I was born and raised. I wanted to give back what was given to me,” he said.

As MSYAA president, Browning is responsible for scheduling games, assigning diamonds, ordering uniforms, and handling the paperwork associated with running a program that this year has 140 children ages 5 to 15 playing T-ball, baseball and softball.

Browning is happy to be surrounded by a dozen volunteers who are as devoted to the program as he is. Six days a week, they’re out at Mason Park on Route 207, where home games and practices are held.

“All the volunteers at MSYAA—you won’t find any nicer or harder-working people. They’re out here rain or shine, even in hip boots,” he said.

Between April 28, the first day of the regular season, and late June, when tournament play starts, MSYAA volunteers will put in hundreds of hours maintaining the parks five fields, coaching, and running the concession stand.

“Set aside all the work that goes into it; if I can put a smile on a kid’s face, it’s all worth it,” Browning said.

This year, he’s coaching the 9- and 10-year-old kid-pitch team. Two years ago, he guided the 7- and 8-year-old coach-pitch team to a 21-0 record, league champion-ship and tournament title.

“At the end of the year, the boys came up to me and said, ‘Coach, this is the best time we’ve had playing ball.’ It doesn’t get much better than that,” Browning said.

Browning encourages the public to come out and watch the kids run the bases. Game schedules can be found at www.leaguelineup.com/msyaa.

For information about the organization, how to volunteer or to make a donation, call 614-877-0690. The next MSYAA fundraiser is a raffle set for May 3. Proceeds will go toward new equipment and projects like construction of dugouts at Mason Park.

MYSSA, a non-profit organization that is part of the Fair Pic league, also offers youth basketball and soccer programs.

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