There's no crying in baseball — and there's no crying about D.C. field trips either, thanks to a generous donation by the Lockport Umpires Association.
On Tuesday, Lockport school district resource officer Mike Stover and Niagara County Legislator Anthony Nemi put their combined 75 years of local umpiring services to work with a generous donation to help fund the annual North Park field trip to Washington, D.C.
North Park teacher Wendy Covel-Zbyteb said for the past 14 years, a group of about 200 students, teachers and volunteer chaperones make a trip to our nation's capital.
Of those taking the trip, about a quarter of them “need help” in getting the financing to go, she said. Thanks to an annual donation by Heinrich Chevrolet, as well as a donation made by recently retired Lockport Police Lt. Rodney Peters, on behalf of a motorcycle group, almost all funds were raised.
In a letter to Lockport City School District staff, Mrs. Covel-Zbyteb said she did not have enough funds to take the entire group that was interested in going.
“It's that time of year again when I have to make the difficult decision to eliminate students because I do not have enough money to help them all,” she stated.
“We have been diligently assessing needs and in order to take the students who still need it, I would need 10 more sponsorship for students ($595). Any amount would be helpful and we are grateful. Perhaps your school might be able to sponsor a student or even a club team.”
Stover said he was touched by the letter and after discussing the situation with Nemi and fellow Lockport Umpires Association board members, it was decided to make the donation.
“Being the Lockport School District Resource Officer, I received an e-mail though the LCSD that they were looking for some sponsorships and that they were down to the final minutes,” Stover said. “I felt, as the school resource officer and also being an umpire, that we would be able to sponsor a student through the Tony Woods Memorial Scholarship Fund that we set up a few years ago. I went to my board of directors and they all thought it was a great idea.”
Nemi, who initiated the Tony Woods Memorial Fund, said each summer, LUA members donate one game day's check towards the fund.
“Last year, we gave (a scholarship) to a Lockport kid and this year, when this came up, we all agreed that it was a good thing to do,” Nemi said.
Mrs. Covel-Zbyteb said Heinrich's annual donation is a blessing, “but the rest is teachers, so it really matters when community groups like the Lockport Umpires Association and Mr. Peters come to help us.”
North Park principal Dr. Bernadette Smith said the annual D.C. trip, “is one of the best experiences our students get prior to high school.”
“Many of our students come from poverty and they don't often get this type of opportunity, so by folks pitching in and helping and providing these chances for our kids, it really changes their life,” Dr. Smith said.
“Not only is this a trip to Washington, but it's a life experience and background knowledge builder.”
Stover said anyone interested in becoming a local umpire can call him at 880-6510 or go to lockportumpires.com.
Follow veteran US&J sports reporter and editor John D'Onofrio at @JohnD'Onofrio7.