KIRKWOOD, Mo. — For more than 60 years, thousands of boys and girls have enjoyed playing in the baseball and softball leagues in Kirkwood.
Countless coaches have also loved being there for their kids.
"You teach them how to throw a ball and hit and that kind of stuff, but you're really teaching them how to be a team player, deal with adversity on and off the field. It's really preparing them for life," said Kirkwood Athletic Association president Eric Eickmeyer.
However, this season, the association's 12 fields on Marshall Road will be empty. The gates will be closed and no crowds will gather at the concession stands because the softball and baseball leagues are out.
"It's very upsetting and disappointing. Most teams had already decided to go elsewhere because we hadn't posted registrations or anything on our website," said Eickmeyer.
In 2019, the nearby Meramec River spilled over its banks during a rain storm, flooded the fields and soaked up a big chunk of their revenue.
Factor in two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Eickmeyer said the nonprofit's pockets are dry.
"It's tapped our resources. We worked hard to get Payroll Protection Plan money, and we got all that we could and that kept the staff on as long as we could," he said.
They ran out of money to cover new lights on the fields and pay top-scale umpires, and now the athletic association cannot offer baseball and softball leagues to children between the ages of 5-14.
Last October, Eickmeyer and his team set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising at least $25,000 to prepare for their 12 baseball and softball leagues, but only $6,000 came in. It wasn't enough money to meet the association's goal.
"We'll all adapt to it and hopefully the community will rally around and support the field and the organization," said softball coach Dave McKay.
"In years past, we've had a great response from the community," Eickmeyer said.
Visit the association's GoFundMe page to support its reopening.