‘It’s getting back’

Published 11:23 am Thursday, June 19, 2008

Take a look around E.M. Henry/West End Park, and you would think it has always been the center of a community that sits, conveniently, in the center of that community.

There’s a swimming pool and rows of basketball courts, large groups of children are playing and the grass is green and neatly cut. It wasn’t always this way, though.

The park was a big part of the childhoods of many that live in the area now, but there was a 12- to 15-year period when the park was shut down. Now, thanks to the hard work of many in the area and the help of the Clanton City Council, the park has reclaimed its former glory. That will be evident Saturday when West End hosts a Dizzy Dean district playoff round for 8-and-under boys, a first for the park.

“Over the past three years, parents have really stepped up, and they’re really excited about their kids doing something,” said Royce Rogers, the league’s president.

Rogers, who played little league ball at the park in the late 1970s, also coaches the 8-and-under West End team that stands at 15-4 on the season and will compete in Saturday’s tournament. The team made state last year as a group of 7-year-olds. It is assured a berth in a tournament in Thorsby the weekend of July the Fourth. If the West End team finishes in the top four in that tournament, it will go to state again.

The team’s success is even more impressive because of the relative youth of the West End program, which is in its third year since beginning again. Most of the kids who play at West End didn’t play anywhere else, Rogers said, and are playing in only their first or second year of competitive baseball or softball.

Rogers said more than 100 kids participated this year, allowing the league to field five girls teams and four boys teams. Carl and Tina Burnett run the girls’ side of the league.

Parents have been so willing to help because baseball and softball give their children something to do during the summer, Rogers said. The park is also becoming a source of pride for the West End community again.

“They used to have sandlot games here on Sundays, and the whole town would come watch,” Rogers said. “Now, when they see these kids here, they want to come watch them. It’s getting back.”