Editor's note: Scott Ford, commissioner of the Lefty Grove League and a teacher who is retiring after 35 years in the profession, will be honored from 3 to 8 p.m. today at Arby's on Milan Avenue in Norwalk.
This story about the Lefty Grove League appeared in the national VFW magazine.
Members of VFW Post 2743 in Norwalk take their baseball quite seriously. For more than 50 years, the Post has actively supported the Lefty Grove Baseball League. Named for Baseball Hall of Famer Lefty Grove, the league has grown to support 37 teams averaging 12 to 14 players per team.
Grove, who pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 30s, had grandchildren who played in the program. He retired to Norwalk and gave the Post permission to use his name.
League Commissioner Scott Ford said the baseball complex, located behind the post, is "quite impressive." It features five playing fields, a concession stand, a $71,000 handicapped-accessible restroom and a storage building.
The Ladies Auxiliary almost exclusively mans the concessions every night of the week beginning in mid-May, continuing through August. Post member Bob Zinn also helps.
Ford, who has been with the league since 1977, said seven games are played every night, and rainouts take place on Saturdays. Halfway through the season, an All-Star game features the league's best players.
While there are many community volunteers in the league, Ford gives credit to VFW and two members in particular.
Ike Liedorff and Al Preston have been involved since the league's inception. They are lifetime board members, and during the league's 50th anniversary last summer, both were honored to have fields named for them.
"We just feel quite proud to be doing this in our community for so many years," said Liedorff, who has belonged to VFW for more than 60 years.
Preston said that over the years Norwalk merchants have donated everything from pizza to diesel fuel to Cleveland Indians tickets.
"We are grateful for it all," he said. "But it's the valuable time that so many people have given so that we could provide thousands of Norwalk youth with summer fun."
Financially, the league is funded through players and sponsor fees, as well as VFW fundraisers. Players pay a $25 fee (this is not required of those who can't afford it) and sponsoring businesses pay $225.
League fundraiser Vicki Williams said a popular way to raise money is the Adult Home Run Derby. Her son, Keifer, is 17, so he's too old for the league. He competed in last year's Derby and beat Ford, who had publicity vowed that he would beat Keifer.
"Imagine Keifer's surprise to find out he won," Williams said. He teased Scott about it, and this year Scott is already setting up a challenge for him."
Players play in age range from 7 to 15 and anyone signing up is placed on a team. Ford said new this year are two traveling teams for 12-to-15-year-olds. These kids will have to compete to make the team.
VFW sponsors three teams in the league.
"Their role is critical to the existence of the league," Ford said. "Without it, there would be no program for the more than 500 players enrolled."