Montevallo Boys and Girls Club paints UM softball dugout

Members of the Unversity of Montevallo's softball team help the Montevallo Boys and Girls Club paint at the "Leave Your Mark on Orr Park" event Sept. 23. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

Members of the Unversity of Montevallo’s softball team help the Montevallo Boys and Girls Club paint at the “Leave Your Mark on Orr Park” event Sept. 23. (Reporter Photo/Drew Granthum)

By DREW GRANTHUM/Sports Editor

MONTEVALLO — The Montevallo Boys and Girls Club is taking a “hands-on” approach to supporting the new University of Montevallo softball team — quite literally.

The club, along with the rest of the community, was given the opportunity to attend “Leave Your Mark on Orr Park” held Sept. 23 at the Falcons’ new facility located in Orr Park adjacent to Island Street.

The event was the idea of Montevallo Boys and Girls Club director Freda Shivers, and allowed the students in the club a chance to meet the players as well as paint on the walls of the home dugout’s storage room.

“I actually got the idea to do it from (UM professor) Ted Metz,” she said. “When he did his ‘Hands’ sculpture on campus, he gave people a chance to come sign before they bronzed it. One day, I contacted the coach and the athletic director, who jumped all over it.”

UM head softball coach Lindsey Vanover said the opportunity to interact with the youth in the community was too good to pass up.

“Freda came by and said ‘We’ve been watching, and we keep seeing the girls over there hitting and our kids keep dreaming about it,’” she said. “She wanted to let everybody come and write on the cinder block outside the dugout before the brick had been laid.”

When the construction company laid the brick over the cinder block before the team and club could get together, the two entities came up with another plan, allowing the club to paint the storage room.

The groups got the OK, and proceeded to put the word out through social media and the community. The Club brought its members, as the players helped the students find the paint and spot on the wall where they were able to leave their imprint. The softball team also brought cookies for those in attendance, which included university faculty and other members of the community.

Shivers said the impact interacting with the team had on the students was ten-fold.

“These guys are superstars,” Shivers said. “The biggest thing is, even thought these kids live in Montevallo and the university is only three blocks away, some of them don’t see college as a part of their future. (Financially), some of these players wouldn’t be here without a scholarship. The point is, you can do it. Just knowing them, the informal interactions, plants the that oh yeah, I can (go to college) some day.”

Vanover said the impact the club had on the players was hard to measure as well.

“It’s nice for the girls,” she said. “I was a coach’s child, so I grew up around youth all the time. I have a passion for teaching youth because people spent time investing in me as a youth. I want to repay that back. We probably have 10 out-of-state kids on the team who don’t have a family (here), so them getting to develop a family in Montevallo is really exciting,” she said. “Interacting with the kids, taking pictures, signing autographs, it really makes our girls feel important, and then they turn around and help those kids.”