Sunday, August 15, 2004

He's securing the future for youth baseball

GOOD SPORTS: Dean Congbalay/Terrace Park

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Dean Congbalay dons a yellow shirt 10 times a season as a security officer at Reds home games. He inspects baggage at entrance gates before the first pitch and patrols the park from the third inning onward to ensure safety for baseball fans.

He works for free.

Congbalay, 40, donates his salary to the Reds Rookie Success League, helping local inner-city youth play baseball in a safe and fun environment.

The vice president of development at Comey & Shepherd Realtors in Mariemont loves Reds baseball anyway and would be at Great American Ball Park as a fan if he weren't working. But the opportunity to combine baseball and charity has been too good to pass up.

Dean Congbalay is working 10 shifts as a security guard at Reds games and donating his $500 salary to help fund the Reds Rookie Success League.
(Enquirer photo/JEFF SWINGER)
"I consider myself to be very fortunate, and we all know people who aren't as fortunate. It's important to give back. It might be a little bit of a sacrifice, but it's the right thing to do," Congbalay said.

Congbalay's $8.25 hourly wage translates to $500 by the season's end, and, with a host of pledges, he's up to $3,500 for the Officer Dean campaign he started three seasons ago. The rookie league is a program within the Reds Community Fund, which promotes health, social interaction and education in Greater Cincinnati youth.

Charley Frank, executive director of the Reds Community Fund, said Congbalay's philanthropy is unprecedented. The funds benefit next year's rookie league, which costs about $75,000 to operate.

Thumbs up

1. James Stillman Rockefeller. The captain of Yale's eight-man rowing team that won a gold medal passed away Tuesday. He was 102, and won the medal in the 1924 Games in Paris!

2. Mark Dantonio. The new UC football coach says he'll do his best to establish a solid fan base for the program. Here's a hint: Hunt down the legions of UC fans who go nuts over the winning basketball program but curiously ignore the football squad.

3. The local sports scene. Andre Agassi's run to the title made the Western & Southern Masters special. The Indy cars are at Kentucky Speedway and Lyndsay Davenport has agreed to play in the W&S women's event.

4. Prep sports. Remember when kids hung out at the pool all summer? Now, they're training, trying out and preparing for the seemingly endless prep season. Good golly, Miss Molly.

Thumbs down

1. Junior. If it weren't for bad luck . . . such a sad turn for such a fabulous player.

2. Allen Iverson. Seems he owes $1,700 in parking tickets - after having paid $2,800 already - for 65 violations. One of which, was leaving his Rolls-Royce in a handicap zone at the airport. Now that's a hero of Olympian proportions.

3. Nevada. The football team has taken the field under new coach Chris Ault with cornerback arrested for robbing a BANK. He was, by the way, the ninth Nevada players charged with felonies the past 1 1/2 years.

4. Japanese baseball. They're losing top-flight players to the states at a rapid pace. Now, the players association voted 98 percent to strike to prevent the merger of several Pacific Coast League teams.

--Mike Ball

"We are very fortunate that someone of Dean's caliber and community interest would select us as a charity choice. As an organization, we feel very honored and flattered," Frank said. "... You just don't find a lot of people like him."

The Reds Rookie Success League was launched in July 2003 to give at-risk children opportunities to learn baseball and build character. The non-competitive, co-ed league for 275 kids, ages 7 to 12, ran for six weeks from June to August. It culminates today with a celebration after the Reds game at Great American Ball Park.

Though Congbalay won't have any interaction with this year's rookies, he'll probably be at the game to cheer them on. The home-game junkie has traveled to spring training and several road series.

He noticed his yellow-shirted compatriots years ago, but it wasn't until a chance rain delay that he found out what they did.

"I thought it sounded fun," said Congbalay, who had assumed the workers were volunteers. "I found out they got a salary, and I thought I could do something with it for charity."

Congbalay works two shifts a month. There's variety in the job, with duties changing each game.

Throughout the season, he raises pledges via an extensive e-mail list. Some donors give $2 or $3, he said, and others match dollar for dollar.

For the first two seasons he awarded the money to Habitat for Humanity, but after researching the Reds Community Fund, he decided this year to contribute the funds to local children and baseball.

Lebanon resident Steve Best, a third-year matching donor, said Congbalay's enthusiasm is contagious and his leadership admirable. Best said Congbalay has shown that contributing to the communities in which we live can be easy.

"He donates, watches his beloved Reds and gets other people involved," Best said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful thing."

E-mail or call 561-7016, ext. 292 to contribute to the Reds Rookie Success League.

Kimberly Theiss / Springfield Township

It wasn't the running or the biking that intimidated Theiss in her first Ironman USA Lake Placid triathlon. Theiss, 47, was petrified of the swimming. She'd lived in San Diego for nine years and never set foot in the ocean, so slogging through 2.4 miles in New York on July 25 wasn't her idea of a good time.

"It wasn't that I didn't know how to swim. It's great in a pool," Theiss said. "I just have a fear of swimming in dark waters."

Theiss surprised herself in the triathlon, finishing 19th of 36 women in the 44-49 age group. Her time in the swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run was 13:47.

Theiss, who has run 26 marathons including four Boston Marathons, had been competing in smaller triathlons for a year and a half to acclimate herself to what she considered unsavory conditions in the water. Panic attacks were part of the drill.

This time, for some reason, her fears were allayed. Originally she'd hoped just to finish the Ironman, then she aimed for 15 hours. Finishing in less than 14 hours was beyond her expectations.

"It was fantastic," she said. "I actually didn't have one fear when I was swimming."

Theiss vowed not to participate in another Ironman before she competed. Afterward, she made a beeline to register for next year because she knows she "can do better."

Ken Wilkinson / Bridgetown

What started as an Internet query ended at the Long Island Regatta, where Wilkinson and the crew of the Valkyrie finished second in Division One. Skipper Ed Lange posted a message looking for mates via the Net and Wilkinson accepted, joining Fred Horton, Richard Hegney and Jenny Loehlin.

Wilkinson didn't meet the crew until two days before the regatta.

"Actually, that was one of the best parts of the whole experience, meeting everyone and working together," Wilkinson said. "We were all fairly skilled sailors but we'd never sailed together."

On July 31 the 1986 Swedish-built Scanmar 33 Valkyrie finished the 190-mile nautical course around Long Island in 46 hours, 49 minutes.

Wilkinson, an avid sailor since the mid 1980s, trimmed the sails, steered the boat and worked on various pieces of hardware during the regatta.

The crew hopes to reunite again, perhaps in the Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race of 2005, Wilkinson said.

Queen City Crossover / Cincinnati

This U-14 girls basketball team qualified for the AAU Division I Nationals in Monroe, La., July 16-22. The Crossover, comprised of players from Anderson, Georgetown, Sycamore, Covington Catholic, Wyoming, Mt. Notre Dame, and St. Ursula, posted the highest finish of any U-14 team from Cincinnati in the AAU Nationals with a 4-2 record. Its last loss was to the Kenner Angels, which finished second overall. Team members include Maria Bennett, Casey Donohoo, Kristen Hammergren, Shannon Klei, Karen Nesbitt, Molly O'Brien, Bethany Perry, Sophia Quick, Gabby Smith, Julianne Smith and Stevy Vance. The Crossover's season began in March and its overall record was 39-23. Coaches were Kelly Peek, Fred Johnson III, Holly Schmitmeyer and John Richardson.

Marcus Taylor/SCPA

Marcus Taylor can officially claim that he jumps rope better than anybody in the world.

Taylor, a senior at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, was named the all-around jump-roping champion at the International Rope Skipping Federation World Championships from July 20-29 in Brisbane, Australia.

"I graduate next year, so I'm not sure if I'll be jumping next year. I figured if I'm going to be quitting, I needed to make this a year to remember," Taylor said.

And he did. The 18-year-old placed in the top four in each of the four events in the men's masters all-around competition (ages 15 and up). That included a second-place in the 3-minute speed, where a judge counted that his right foot hit the ground 424 times in 3 minutes, about 2.36 times per second.

The win was a culmination of years of work. Taylor first started jumping rope in first grade when his current coach Chris Emerson introduced him to the sport.

"I can remember thinking, 'This kid has more rhythm and coordination in his baby finger than almost any kid in this school,'" Emerson said. "Everything I'd show him, he'd pick up."

A few years later, he joined Emerson's Ropin' Rockets team and soon began training seriously. He won an individual gold medal in the 30-second speed in the 2001 World Championships, where he placed fourth overall. He qualified for this year's Championships in April.

So what's next for Taylor?

"I'm hoping I can get on a talk show," Taylor said. "Maybe Oprah."

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He's securing the future for youth baseball
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