Beaufort News

Parent group pushes changes to PALS athletics programs

A group calling for change in Beaufort County Parks & Leisure Services athletics programs now wants to start a nonprofit organization to marshal parent volunteers and address some of their concerns.

Robert Gecy, who helps coach a PALS baseball team, said he's working with an attorney to set up a nonprofit group tentatively called the Beaufort Youth Athletics Commission.

"Initially, we're going to start with just baseball," Gecy said, though he indicated the group might expand if it finds success.

In March, Gecy started a Facebook group to protest what he said were continual issues with PALS programs. The group has attracted nearly 250 members, many of whom echo complaints about ill-fitting uniforms, conflicting game schedules and poor field maintenance.

About a half-dozen parents also attended a PALS advisory board meeting last month, and several said the county had not responded to any of their concerns.

Gecy said he hopes the new commission can streamline communication among parents, coaches and PALS staff.

He would like the group to take over concession sales at games, too, and put the proceeds back into programs and maintenance.

"If you go out to the St. Helena ballpark, you have this field out there that has no bathroom facilities," Gecy said. "They've basically closed them down, boarded them up."

PALS co-director Joe Penale said the county will meet with the parents this week to discuss more details.

Tom Ertter, a PALS board member and former youth baseball coach, said he supports the proposal. After all, he said, everybody benefits when parents volunteer to make local athletics better.

"The opportunity is there," Ertter said. "It's just getting people willing to do it."

Other county parent groups, such as Bluffton Youth Sports, host baseball games on county or municipal fields but essentially control their own programs.

"It's the same thing with Hilton Head Baseball Association," Penale said. "It's a parent-run organization, and they use town fields."

If the new group wants to lead the baseball program itself, Penale said, it will need to get approval from county administrator Gary Kubic.

But Gecy said that's not an immediate goal, and he hopes the organization will be more like a booster club.