From Left Field

    In case no one has heard, finances are tight just about everywhere, Well, unless you're one of those 400 folks who own more wealth than the rest of the people in the nation combined.
    High school and middle school athletic programs are among those butting heads with tight budgets. These days it takes a little ingenuity, some serious thought, and a whole bunch of hard work to come up with ways to raise a few bucks and then make it all work.
    So hand out a few bouquets to the Bellmont baseball program which has helped itself tremendously without sending players door to door to sell candy bars and/or popcorn — or trying to wash cars in this longest of winters.  No, the baseballers decided to have themselves a rummage sale, tossed in a sale of the popular Nelson's chicken and — thanks to a lot of hard work — had a boomer of a project.
    "Well, we raised $1,200 in the rummage sale and $3,000 on the sale of chicken, so, yeh, we had a good day," Head Coach Ben Fawbush said this week with a bit of a chuckle. "We want to copyright it so no one else can use it," he laughed.
    Although a relatively new idea for schools here, the rummage sale has paid off handsomely at other schools.
    "Actually, it was an idea we got from (now defunct) Elmhurst. They had done it for softball and raised a lot of money," said Fawbush, who's moved up to the top job this year in replacing Randy Hisner. "We had someone (from Elmhurst) come down and talk to us about it and then we went from there."
    There was a lot more effort required than in handing out candy bars. The proverbial "tons of stuff" came in and filled a lot of tables in the big room at Riverside Center. A lot of people, including players and coaches, got involved in collecting everything, getting it out on Friday and then handling the sale on Saturday. Plus the sale of chicken.
    "That was great, too, because it brought everyone together," Fawbush said. "Parents, players, coaches; everyone got involved. It was awesome!"
    Next will be reaping the rewards of all that effort. There are no kickbacks to the candy company. Or the calendar company. "No, it's ours. And we have a lot of leeway with what we can do with it (the money)," Fawbush said.
The time arrives
    The Democrat's Jim Hopkins hit ye ol' nail on ye ol' head in a column last week: Bellmont High School needs to look for a conference with schools its size. Or, the Northeast Hoosier Conference needs to tell Homestead and Carroll to start packing.    
    There is no way Bellmont, with its 801 students, can consistently compete in sports with Homestead and its 2,219 students and Carroll with its 1,925 students. Determination and pride and will-to-win and all the other cliches simply don't hack it when one is overwhelmed by numbers.
    Homestead and Carroll have numbers fit for the Summit Athletic Conference (SAC), the one with the Fort Wayne schools. In fact, if they joined the SAC, Homestead would have the second highest enrollment and Carroll the fourth highest. Only Northrop is bigger than Homestead, and in between Homestead and Carroll would be Snider.
    South Side has a smaller enrollment. So does North Side. And Dwenger.
    When Bellmont won the 3A state football championship a little more than two years ago, its only loss was at the hands of ... Homestead. The Allen County school probably has three or four times more kids out for band than Bellmont does for football.
    If the IHSAA has deemed it necessary to go to classes to even competition, then why is Bellmont in a conference with schools two and a half and three times its size in enrollment?
    Homestead and Carroll can call it whining, but some of us would simply label it as common sense.
    Yes, Bellmont dominates in volleyball and in wrestling, but look who became the NHC wrestling champ this year: Carroll. In the end, overwhelming numbers are going to provide consistent excellence.
    During a stay in Ohio some years back, we saw a school — like Bellmont, the smallest in its league — continue to resist joining a league with schools its own size. Finally forced to join the other conference when pushed out by its own league, the school quickly became a dominant power and everyone — athletes, coaches, school administrators, fans et al —has since lived happily ever after.