By Michelle Brooks
RUSSELLVILLE - Driving 45 minutes one way for baseball practices for their three boys is worth it to the Mealy family from Mokane. They appreciate the good influence the Russellville-based Outlaw Baseball offers.
"It draws the best out of our kids in a positive fashion," mom Sara Mealy said.
Looking at its fourth season, the Outlaw program hosted its primary fundraiser Sunday. The event should cover the cost for uniforms for the eight teams, organizer Mike Miller said.
The companion silent auction will benefit the individual teams.
A new fundraiser this year, the league hosted a Valentine's Dance Friday for more than 100 area middle-schoolers.
"It was a huge success," Miller said.
The league also hosts a half-hog raffle, thanks to a meat donation.
The Outlaw program participates in the Columbia-based BC League. In addition to the competitive games one night per week following high school rules, the teams attend many weekend tournaments.
They host their own tournament the weekend of Mother's Day.
To further facilitate playing opportunities, Miller created a website through SideLine Sports Events, to exchange tournament information.
"So many people said this was needed," Miller said. "It's exciting; it's one more way for awareness."
The Outlaw program dramatically has grown from its one team the first year. Last year, they added a girls team.
About 60 families from as far away as Belle, Mokane and California will participate this upcoming season.
What sets the Outlaw program apart is its emphasis on team experience, Miller said.
"The adrenaline of the win is awesome but what's the cost if you're not teaching discipline and teamwork," Miller said.
California coach Paul Bailey found the Outlaw program for his son Gabe, providing more competition, more opportunities, more games and organized practices, he said.
Like other fathers in the program, Bailey shares his knowledge with pitchers on other Outlaw teams, when possible.
"The organization is just a big family," Bailey said. "We're dedicated to our team, but we will help with other teams as well."