For most kids in the United States, as well as many across the world, baseball and softball is not a choice - it's more of a way of life.
Sure, very few will make it to the big leagues and many others will give up the ghost to pursue other things when they hit high school or even junior high, but there's always little league.
And for Girard Baseball Association president Jim Standohar, who has been in charge of the GBA since 2007, little league in Girard, as well as the local area in a sense, going without sports is something that no kid should have to endure.
"I always view it as being a service," Standohar said of the GBA and other local baseball and softball organization. "Our city had some financial problems a few years back, and a few fathers were able to come together and keep it going for the city. Since then, it's been ran by a group of men that's evolved over the years and, to me, we just care a lot about it because it teaches kids a lot.
"We have some core beliefs that we want to teach beyond bases and balls. It's the first time kinds have been part of a team, so we try to make it the best experience we can. We try to link with the community because we really want to build a strong group to give the kids a good example."
It feels like fate that Standohar would take charge in the revitalization of a program that many in the area feared could have issues or could even crumble because of the bad economy. Standohar's grandfather was a leader in the original creation of the GBA and, even with the way things have changed and the upheaval of technology and society, things seemed to work best for the now acting president and his group of merry men of the diamond.
"My grandfather started little league in Girard," Standohar said. "Back then, he took care of the fields and now it's came full circle with us taking care of the fields. We're the guys that rip our ties off at 5 o' clock and get to the fields to work."
It is volunteers, as well as a myriad of local sponsors, that keep the GBA and other local leagues like it afloat in the economy and in lieu of so many privatized leagues and programs for parents who want to give their kids professional level experience while they are still watching Nick Jr.
"Our league is completely based on volunteers," Standohar said. "From the coaching to the concession workers to people who prepare the fields, there's no one that makes one nickel. My dream is to keep it that way because we truly have the intent and nature of little league baseball. That's what it's intended to be, for the kids and the community. I always wanted Girard to have a first class organization for the community and by having the volunteers and sponsors make that happen."
And though other leagues may be more specialized and competitive, Standohar is of the belief that there is something special about recreation ball and that the two can co-exist and work off each other.
The GBA is now in tournament play in the 304 League, a group that contains many of the smaller communities and combines both the kids and parents from many local locales, but also the value system and love of the diamond that has kept baseball and softball so close in the hearts of so many.
"In the 304 League, Girard is one community of six, along with Hubbard, Liberty, Vienna, Niles, Matthews and McDonald," Standohar said. "Some of the biggest communities, they have enough kids to compete against each other. For these smaller communities, we can compete against each other. Together, we can build a bigger league and that's what we've done for the last 10 years and continue to hope to do."