By Chris Chaney
Hardball in the Village of Bethel is in good hands and has taken the steps needed to continue to prosper for years to come thanks to the people behind Bethel Diamond Sports, Inc.
About a year and a half after its inception was spawned by the exclusion of softball from the umbrella of youth sports under the previous organization, BDS, Inc. has gone above and beyond to replenish and foster of love of baseball and softball in the community.
Teaming up with the Cincinnati Reds Community Fund, BDS began to rebuild what was left of the hardball infrastructure in the village. Community giveback initiatives included field clean ups, pancake breakfasts and volunteer work at the Bethel Bolt.
Once accredited by the Community Fund, BDS used the funds to update facilities, buy equipment and pay their fee to the Bethel schools to rent the fields.
A touch-and-go first season has given way to a respected organization in the booming stages of its growth.
Dawn Hollifield, the president of Bethel Diamond Sports, Inc. said she couldn’t say enough about the support her and her organization has received from people, businesses and organizations around the community for the help they have given.
“I’d like to give my personal ‘thank you’ to all the coaches, the parents, the players, the board, the town and everyone who has gotten behind this project and made it go,” she said. “I may be the name that you see as president, but for me, it’s just a title that they gave me to try to keep things going and get the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.
“I couldn’t do any of this without who I call my rock stars — those super-parents and super-coaches — for always pitching in when we need someone for the concession stands or to help get the fields ready.
“Just everyone who has been a part of this organization has made it really soar.”
Now in their second season of play, BDS has grown the games of baseball and softball in Bethel.
“We had 273 players last year and at last count, we’re up to 315,” Hollifield said. “That number has grown along with from having seven softball teams last year to nine (this year). We actually have enough girls that we are fielding two 9U teams and two 12U teams. And for the first time in a long time, we have a 14U team, which Bethel has not been able to keep that age bracket of girls.
“That was one of our goals — to build this and send more girls to our high school. Softball in our high school has been lucky to field a varsity team. This year they have a JV team, so that is not only helping us grow our community with the recreation, but also helping grow our high school sports. Within five years, I want (Bethel-Tate High School) to have freshman, JV and varsity teams coming out of our organization.”
Part of the growth of BDS has been the continued support from the Reds Community Fund. Having satisfied all requirements from the Fund last year, BDS’ grant in 2014 was bumped up $2,000 to $6,000. Hollifield said that with that money, the organization was able to buy more equipment, bases, balls, tees, nets and then also pay the lease for the fields and all registration fees for the softball and baseball teams.
BDS’ end of the bargain for the Community Fund has already been upheld as they have completed three community service events to date.
“We’re required to do three (events), but last year we did about five,” Hollifield said. “It’s not just something that we have to do, it’s something that with this whole organization being based around our community and our kids, we want to push them to learn to give back.”
The events included a field day in which players, parents and coaches work on the fields to get them ready for the season, serving the Bethel Lions Club’s pancake breakfast and a tree-planting around the community.
Hollifield said that over 200 people took part in the three events.
Aside from those necessities that were footed by the Community Fund, BDS was able to purchase 160 tons of dirt to put on the fields and replace a fence thanks to a healthy donation from Ray and Tanya Courts’ Bethel Youth Basketball organization.
The fence was torn down by BDS in an attempt to save some money and the new one was erected by Mills Fence Company.
“We were very blessed to receive that (donation),” Hollifield said. “We would have been able to stay afloat without it, but we definitely wouldn’t have been able to get the fence or that much dirt. They really helped us out this year.”
BDS’ teams have gotten their seasons under way in the last week. The baseball teams participate in the Clermont County Knothole League and the softball teams play in the Southern Ohio Softball League.
For more information about Bethel Diamond Sports, Inc., including calendars, schedules, tournament information and contact info, log on to their website at leaguelineup.com/betheldiamondsports.