By STEVE KRAH
Bringing opportunity to youngsters is what drives Mark Haley and others as they plan for the future.
Haley, who managed the South Bend Silver Hawks for 10 Midwest League seasons (2005-14) and now runs the 1st Source Bank/South Bend Cubs Performance Center, guides a travel baseball program with seven teams in 2017.
Squads are divided by high school graduation class. There is one team made up of all Penn High School players.
The South Bend Cubs Youth Baseball Club is part of the Chicago Scouts Association I-94 Conference. Member teams play Saturday and Sunday wood-bat doubleheaders in Indiana and Illinois. Games are seven innings each with no extra innings.
“The emphasis is on good competition to show ability,” says Haley.
South Bend Cubs travel tryouts for the 2018 are scheduled for Aug. 2 at Four Winds Field.
Travel ball can lead to college baseball which could lead to the pro ranks.
But Haley knows it’s not for everyone.
“If you don’t have that passion it’s not worth it because you sacrifice things people don’t realize,” says Haley.
The baseball veteran is also part of a group of passionate community leaders looking to launch the South Bend Cubs Foundation. Application has been made for 501 (c) 3 non-profit status for an organization that will include baseball and softball travel teams plus bring baseball to youth in South Bend’s inner-city.
“We’re located in downtown South Bend, but we draw mostly from outside South Bend,” says Haley of Performance Center clients and travel ball players. “We want to change the whole culture and develop (inner-city kids) as athletes and as a community.”
“The community has to accept it,” says Haley. “We have to make it appealing to the kids.
“It’s going to be fun to watch. A lot of people will be getting involved that have not been involved in the past.”
The timeline for launching the program has not yet been determined.
“We’ve got to create the skeleton first,” says Haley. “We’ve got the muscle behind us.”
In addition, Haley is trying to help local Little League parks run local tournaments and help players transition from 50/70 to 60-6/90 fields, which usually happens near the end of junior high and the beginning of high school.
“Our goal every weekend is to have every baseball being used,” says Haley. “None sit idle.”