All-volunteer effort for Rose City Classic labor of love
Steve Himes spends the majority of his daylight hours as a division land advisor for EOG Resources, while Michael Romines is director of operations and president for Acme Oil Service and Repair.
But at 8 a.m. Thursday both men were away from the office manning squeegee brooms, pushing water out of the outfield after the tarp was taken off at Mike Carter Field. A few hours later, they were called into action as electronic scoreboard keeper and press box announcer.
The Rose City Baseball Classic just finished its 22nd year on Saturday with Carthage defeating Sulphur Springs, 8-6. The game was the final of 14 contests played in three days.
That is not very unusual. Other sports regularly hold high school tournaments. What is unusual about the Rose City Classic is that it's put on every year entirely by volunteers -- all of them parents of current or past Lee freshmen, junior varsity and varsity baseball players.
While many other events are worked by coaches, administrators and other staff workers, Rose City Classic volunteers are members of the long-running Tyler Lee Dugout Club, and they must take time off from their jobs to complete this three-day labor of love.
"Baseball just in of itself has always been a sport that has a lot of parent participation, starting in Little League," said Himes, president of the Tyler Lee Dugout Club and past tournament director. "There are three long days involved obviously. Some of us pretty much stay down there the entire time all three days."
David Howard has coached for Lee in 11 Rose City Classics and said the volunteer support by the parents and the amount of things that entails makes this event unique.
"We are really fortunate in that my coaches and I get to take care of the field and coach our kids, which is a nice luxury to have when you are hosting a tournament," Howard said, in his first year as Lee head coach after serving 10 years as an assistant. "And I have a lot of help with the field from parents who are jumping in to help out where they can. Our parents just do a fabulous job of being so organized that they are able to do so many different things well that you don't necessarily see all of these things collectively at a lot of the tournaments (we go to)."
Howard said some of things in the background that make the Classic special are having a host for each participating team with a parent responsible for providing communication with that coach and coordinating team meals. Also there is a three-day hospitality suite for coaches, umpires and media that "is as good as any we will see."
This year's Classic also featured an ETMC helicopter landing in centerfield with past Tyler Dugout Club president Richard Solomon emerging to throw out the first pitch Thursday before Lee's game against Kilgore.
Romines, this year's tournament director, said the work for every Rose City Classic begins months before a pitch is thrown.
"There were primarily about 13 committees that it took to run this tournament," Romines said. "From concessions to field crew, hospitality, media, down to security and first aid, getting sponsorships, tickets. ... Each one of those was crucial to putting on the entirety of the tournament.
"We have a great baseball community that I think is reflective of a larger community that is willing to work to show off the attributes of our city and public schools."
The biggest obstacle every tournament director faces is Mother Nature, and she did not disappoint, delivering a rain shower on the morning of the first day, Thursday.
Himes said Romines had everyone prepared and ready to change things around as needed, which this year included canceling one of Lee's games, while also getting the field ready to play after things cleared up.
"He really made it work, and all of the committee chairpersons made it happen with the work they invested prior to and during the tournament," Himes said.
Romines said the cold, wet weather did not discourage the parents from doing what was needed.
"There were all of us involved in pulling the tarp off, and while that tarp does a good job of keeping 90 percent of the water off the field, that 10 percent left is a lot. I don't know what the temperature was, but it was cold, and I was sweating and had to go change and put on dry shoes as did many of our volunteers."
The remaining days were clear, and the rest of the games were played without incident.
Himes said when the final out was made on Saturday night, there were handshakes all around.
"That's the time when everyone can finally exhale," Himes said. "It is a long three days, but it's a very enjoyable three days. We pat everyone on the back and say we'll do it again next year."
Romines said this year's Rose City Classic, like the 21 before it, was a success.
"This is our single largest fundraiser for our club, and our club's primary goal is to give scholarship money for our graduating seniors, so they can go on and get a college education," Romines said.
"Other than a little bit of rain we had the first morning, I think it was a tournament that went off as seamlessly as any tournament you can ask for."