Prep Rally | A few bucks now for more opportunity later

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 25, 2014 

Staff Photographer

Manatee High School's Weston Davis pitches against Riverview during Tuesday's game at G.T. Bray Park in West Bradenton. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

PAUL VIDELA — pvidela@bradenton.com Buy Photo

Have you seen them, too?

The thieves, I'm talking about. The ones that hang around the area's prep baseball, softball games and soccer matches.

They don't steal equipment. They don't pilfer sodas and Blow Pops when the volunteers at the concession stands turn their backs.

They don't hang 'round the parking lots so they can swipe hubcaps, or check for unlocked doors so they can load up on free iPods.

No, these people steal from the athletes. The saddest part? Most of them are related to the victims.

Rather than pay their way into the events, they instead choose to watch the games from outside the fences, or wait a few innings during a ballgame until whomever is taking admission has gone home for the night.

Shrewd move.

A costly one, too.

This area is no different than most -- football is the big draw at the box office, and if you have a good team that makes long postseason runs, it can do wonders for your athletic department in terms of new equipment and splashier uniforms.

But if teams want to splurge for the extras, such as ponying up for the travel and lodging required to participate in an out-of-area tournament, the players need to pay for that themselves.

Meager gate revenue makes that task an arduous one.

Every bit helps. And by watching the game for free, that's a little bit that's not going to the programs that need them.

Prep sports are a learning tool and an extension of what happens in the classroom. They are not money-making ventures. That's understood.

But like everything else, prep sports need cash to keep rolling, especially in the postseason, when a portion of the gate fees go to the Florida High School Athletic Association.

This isn't a call to action to attend games. It's your time and your money, and you can spend either as you wish.

But spectators who go should pay their way in, if for nothing more than to help support the kids they are watching and the teams they are cheering on.

So next time you head to a park or field to take in a game, think before you watch for free from your car and peer through a fence, all in the name of saving a couple of bucks.

The program you save just may be your own.

John Lembo, sports writer, can be reached at jlembo@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnLembo1878.

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