Interviewed by Alex Khalifeh (JMU Class of 18)
Written by J. B. Gochenour (Lecturer at JMU)
Crystal Taylor, vice president of Harrisonburg Little League Association, has a very special title. For many, she’s Harrisonburg’s “baseball lady.”
A longtime Harrisonburg Little League parent and volunteer, Taylor has spent the last decade working with a team of league supporters that help keep Harrisonburg Little League Association’s season on the calendar and players returning to the field.
“I started volunteering 10 years ago as a team mom and working at our big events and have been on the board for 8 years and Vice President for 6 years,” Taylor said.
HLLA relies on volunteers like Taylor and her co-workers who donate untold hours staffing games, sorting through and filling out paperwork, keeping team records, holding fund-raisers, selling refreshments, and keeping HLLA running smoothly behind the scenes.
“I cannot say enough about how much she actually does for HLLA," said Dean Warlitner, HLLA president. "All the behind the scenes stuff that no one sees. If we listed everything she does, it will be very long and detailed.”
The volunteers’ efforts, often invisible to those in the stands, are vital and rewarding.
“I have a 20-year-old son, 17-year-old son, and a 15-year-old son that have played in the league in the past. I have a 9 year old daughter that has played since she was 4 and is currently still playing,” said Taylor. “I also do daycare and a lot of my ‘other kids’ have played as well. I am lucky enough to be able to cheer on many little ballers at the park.”
According to Taylor, children involved in Harrisonburg Little League not only learn the sport of baseball, but get out and meet people, build skills, develop a work ethic, practice sportsmanship, and get vigorous exercise—all in a team setting.
Children in the league also interact with adult role models such as the coaches and volunteers as well as with other children that share their interest in baseball. In addition, Taylor said, HLLA provides players with a positive focus and helps them stay out of trouble and begin understand what it means to be a part of the community.
Those are the kind of rewards that bring Taylor and HLLA parents and volunteers back game after game, season after season. Indeed, Taylor’s own children grew up observing their mother volunteering and giving back to the community and now she sees them doing the same.
All this helps make the volunteers and parents hard work worth it, especially when—as the season progresses and games become more frequent—the workload for volunteers becomes more demanding.
Yet while their work might be taken for granted and under appreciated at times, many volunteers like Taylor have been supporting the league for years and continue to do so.
Taylor admits that it can be very difficult to keep up this workload, but acknowledges that volunteers and parents are the life blood of HLLA and why the league runs so smoothly.
The result? A great experience, year after year, for Harrisonburg children and youth.
And, for Taylor, a reputation.
“Aren’t you the baseball lady?” children from the league ask when they see Taylor around town and at school.
The question usually comes with a big smile and Taylor quickly responds with a smile of her own, explaining that she loves being a part of making HLLA such fun for children.
One experience, however, was not so positive and strongly tested Taylor’s commitment to HLLA. The incident occurred several years ago when Taylor was working the concessions at Purcell Park.
“I was at the park the week before the batathon cleaning up concessions and making sure everything was stocked. I finished up with side 2 and then closed it up and went to side 1 to do the same thing,” Taylor recalled. “When I was finishing up side 1, I remembered that I had left a batathon packet in the side 2 concession stand so I drove over to get it. When I pulled up to the concession stand it was dark and everyone had left.” After retrieving the packet and locking the door, Taylor was hit on the head from behind. At that point her assailant grabbed the envelope and ran away. Although she fell and hurt her knee when hit, Taylor managed to get to her car and call 911.
Taylor hesitated to come back after the incident. Yet, Taylor realized that her commitment to the community and the children helped restore the resilience she needed to return to HLLA. That’s no surprise for those who’ve glimpsed the passion that Harrisonburg’s “baseball lady”—and every member of HLLA’s team of parents and volunteers—has.
“I do what I do,” Taylor said, “because I love the kids and I love the town I live in."
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All contents are managed by the Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Kevin Leaven (firstname.lastname@example.org), an account executive of the Bluestone Communications., if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.