The ding of an aluminum bat echoes across the baseball diamond at Front and Moore streets in Pennsport. Parents cheer as a twelve-year-old boy races to first base, then to second.
For Edward O’Malley Athletic Association President Ed McBride, this is just another day at the office.
McBride has been president of the association, better known as EOM, for more than 40 years. He initially became involved when his son started playing football for EOM in the mid-1960s. His son eventually moved on to another league, but McBride has stayed at EOM ever since.
“I love seeing the kids develop. They go through the program and come back and want to coach. There must be something good about it if they want to come back,” McBride said. “Most of the coaches are young men who played in the program. Sometimes they get married and have their own kids and then come back again to help their kids. We’ve got three generations of people participating here.”
Matt Holmes, commissioner of the baseball league, is one such man. He has been a member of EOM since 1978 when he played there as a boy. Now, his three children play sports here.
“We gotta give something to the kids,” Holmes said. “They have to be able to come here and experience all the memories that we did when we were kids. All the friendships, all the positives, all the good vibrations that we had growing up.”
Spreading those positives around seems to be a value shared by EOM parents and volunteers alike. Nicole Cassello appreciates the atmosphere EOM provides for her son and daughter.
“My kids have played elsewhere but this program is the better one. The participation as far as the parents and the kids and the relationships down here are different than they are elsewhere,” Cassello said. She likes the EOM programs because although they take the game seriously, they build the kids up instead of discouraging them.
“We don’t want the main thing to be winning. The main thing is competing and playing with other boys and girls,” McBride said. “The idea is that every kid who comes out and plays on the team should be treated the same. They’re treated the same because they’re boys and girls and it shouldn’t matter whether one’s a better pitcher than the other or one’s a better foul shooter than the other. The kid at the end of the bench who goes in first and the kid who goes in last should be treated the same.”
To help fund the sports programs, EOM rents out their hall, located at 144 Moore St., to people hosting weddings or other parties. The organization also hosts fundraisers like last summer’s “2 Stock,” an outdoor concert and festival, to defray costs. McBride said that 75 percent of the cost of the programs is offset by registration fees and the remaining 25 percent comes from fundraising.
“We don’t want the registration to be so high that kids can’t afford to play,” McBride said. “We never turn anyone away. If a parent can’t afford to pay we keep that quiet and absorb that cost.”
Over the years, the sports offered at EOM have changed. In the 1970s, EOM organized boys and girls bowling leagues. Now, baseball, girls’ softball, hockey, girls’ lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ basketball and football are among the offerings.
McBride feels the programs fill an important niche in the neighborhood.
“Someone said to me tonight, ‘what would happen if EOM was not here?’ And that’s a pretty sobering thought,” McBride said. “There would be a lot of kids with nothing to do if we weren’t here. There are very few people in this neighborhood who aren’t involved with EOM in some way.”
In the absence of EOM’s facilities, many social events would also be displaced. Pennsport Civic Association meetings take place there, as well as many functions hosted by the two nearby Catholic parishes.
“We have a new regional school in the area that uses our facilities for things, too,” McBride said. “One of the local high schools uses it, even [Catholic high school] Neumann Gorretti has used it when they were pressed for gym time.”
This organization is unique not only in its longevity, but also its persistence. EOM faced tragedy when the hall burned down in the winter of 1983, just after the new gym was completed. Despite such setbacks, EOM is stronger than ever.
“I think we provide a focal point for the community. If you mention EOM to anyone around here they know exactly what it is and they know exactly what we do,” McBride said. “They know we’re here and the doors are always open for anyone.”
– Text, video and images by Nina Lispi and Eddie Durkin