Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Recreational competition starts on home turf by Michelle Libby

Sebago Sports is in its second year as a non-profit company that creates recreational activities through year-round league play. The creator of the program is Rob Donato, a 31-year-old graduate of Saint Joseph’s College with a degree in business management.

“The purpose is to create recreational activities and have fun. Have people enjoy each other, competing and meeting new people. There is a huge disconnection when it comes to being outdoors playing sports,” Donato said. “There is nothing for young adults leading into adulthood to enjoy like they used to.”

The Sebago Sports leagues welcome everyone from ages 18 to 70. Starting next week, Sebago Sports begins its co-ed slow-pitch softball games. Last year there were eight teams, this year there are 16. Each team must have three women on the field at all times. “It’s hard to find women who can make that commitment,” he said.

Donato’s goal in starting the program was to keep people in the lakes region to play rather than driving through Windham to play in Portland. He also wanted to run it with integrity, he said. He wanted the money to be used for fixing up the fields the league plays on. This year, Donato has been working with his “entourage” to fix the Manchester School field.

Last year, Donato put up a fence and had dirt brought in to the Manchester School field behind Windham United Church of Christ. This year he re-did the right field, re-cut the entire infield, putting down ball field mix, which is a combination of clay and loam, which is soft for sliding. He is also fixing the right field fence that was damaged over the winter.

The field is also used by Windham Little League and other community organizations. “It’s a big project. It’s significant landscaping,” Donato said.

Sebago Sports also uses fields at Windham Christian Academy, Johnson Field in Standish and Mill Street Field in Raymond. One hour games are played during the week starting at 6 p.m. The reigning 2012 Champs Pat’s Pizza is back looking to repeat, but Donato expects there to be competition from the Penny’s Lawncare team called silent assassins. There are 14 games in the season, not including play-offs, which should run until the first week in September, according to Donato.

There are six ASA certified umpires who will call the games, which can get pretty heated, he said. He is also looking into liability insurance. Teams pay $650 for the co-ed softball season and $700 for the all-men’s softball league.      

Sebago Sports plans to have a men’s softball league this summer with a shortened season, basketball this summer sponsored by Sebago Sports and Windham Recreation Department, flag football in the fall and basketball in the winter.

Donato knows that a league of this kind takes support from the whole community. He has worked with key people and businesses to get the season off to a strong start. They are RSU 14 athlete director Rich Drummond, Tom Gumble, who takes care of the Raymond school facilities, Windham Fire Department and Garvin “Chip” Jones, Paul Kittrick, Dave LeClaire, The Dore family, Bill Hansen, who manages facilities at the Windham schools, Ralph Vance, CR Tandberg and Shaw Brothers.

“I want to explode this,” Donato said. “If I could play sports and be outdoors and create different leagues to compete in, that’s my ultimate goal…to make people happy,” he said.

Donato was born and raised in Millinocket. He liked the small town feel there and would like to create some of that in this area. “It’s the small town support I like,” he said. “That’s how it was. We were always out playing all day until mom said ‘come in’ and then we still played,” he added.

Sebago Sports is planning a home run derby on Sunday, June 23 after Summerfest. The cost will be $10 to enter and the person who hits the most home runs, wins. Each person gets 10 outs and anything not a home run is an out. The winner will receive a trophy, their name listed in The Windham Eagle and they will get their money back. All proceeds from the derby will benefit the Class of 2014 project graduation. 

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