LaFollette Park baseball league organizer Thomas Bowling is looking to put “eight men in.” As in new team uniforms for participation in the park’s new LaFollette Community Baseball summer league.

The season is set to begin on May 19 at the park, located at 1333 N Laramie Avenue. But there’s an issue: whether all of the players will be able wear team uniforms. Funding issues may mean not enough uniforms for the 300 total players from all 18 teams.

“We have contacted [37th Ward Alderman] Emma Mitts and [8th District state Representative] La’Shawn Ford about funding for the students uniforms but have yet to receive a response,” said Bowling.

Of the 18 teams, there are three separate divisions of the league which are determined by age: The Farm division is for 4-8 year olds; the minor division for age 9-11; and the major division for 12-14 year olds.

Bowling, who works professionally as a computer software tester and father of four, including two young baseball players, has worked with the park district for 10 years.

He said that there are many children living with grandparents on fixed incomes which contributes to their inability to afford uniforms.

“I am asking all the businesses, political figures, religious leaders, and even the residents in the community itself to help support the children,” he said. “I am asking for the media’s support to help obtain uniforms so that the children can partake in an activity that will unify them with their peers and keep them off the streets.”

Bowling’s passion was ignited at an early age, when he used to watch the Cubs games on humid weekends with his grandmother.The experience was followed by his meeting of a young man name Travis Gillam, who would become his best friend and still is to this day. The two played on a neighborhood team, competing against other against in their Southeast Side residence.

“It was like the movie The Sandlot,” said Bowling of his early introduction into America’s past time. “We would play in the alleyways and the man hole covers would represent the bases. The other kids and I who played regularly never got in the type of trouble that many of our peers got into because we had an outlet in the community.”

Parent committee organizer Sherice Murrell, echoes the sentiments, insisting that those who claim they want safer schools, a better educational system, and less crime should step up to the plate and deliver for their constituents.

Murrell has been involved with the park district programs for four years, coaching a baseball team at LaFollette Park for the first two before taking over the parents committee two years ago.

There will be a parade and rally celebrating the opening of the league’s season. For information about donating to or sponsoring a team at Lafayette Park contact Sherice Murrell at 773/531-4435.

“Eight Men Out” was a 1988 baseball film about the Chicago White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series.