LILLY - This year may be the last for Conrad Chiropractic/Lilly American Legion baseball.
Cambria County's only participant in the Altoona Greater City Baseball League - and the dominant team in the league for several seasons - is being told to hand over $1,200 to use War Memorial Field this summer because, according to officials, its members have not been contributing to field maintenance.
"All the teams contribute ... the only team that does not is the city league," said John Hurley, Lilly War Memorial Association president. "They haven't done that over the last two years."
Hurley said all teams that use the larger field - City League, American Legion, Pony League and Penn Cambria High School - are asked to drag, line and prepare the field for play before a game, place a volunteer in the concession stand and clean up afterward.
Because the City League team has not contributed, Hurley said, board members decided to charge the $1,200 fee to pay someone to prepare the field and to hire a concession stand worker.
Longtime Conrad Chiropractic/Lilly American Legion coach Ron Davison, who also is a former war memorial association president and former field groundskeeper, said asking the team to pay is unfair.
He said he feels he's being targeted. Meanwhile, he said, the association continues to line and prepare the baseball field for other teams - just not his.
Association Treasurer Joe Gides said when they had full-time groundskeepers, there was a set schedule for field work. But it's been difficult finding a full-time person.
The war memorial sometimes sends a member or part-time worker to help with the field, he said, but sometimes a team's coach must do it. All other teams have chipped in except for the City League team, Gides said.
Davison said his team will play all of its 22 regular season games, beginning in mid-May and running through the beginning of August, in Altoona. The future beyond that is unclear.
Conrad Chiropractic/Lilly American Legion has won the Altoona City League 10 of the last 11 years.
"It might not only bump us out of Lilly. It might be the end of our team," Davison said. "Probably half of our guys are from up in this area. I can hardly expect them, or our fans, to make 25 or 30 trips to Altoona during the year. We're going to get through this this year - but after this year, I'm not sure what's going to happen. And it's a shame."
Some fans also reached out to the Mirror and said they are opposed to making Davison's team pay to play.
"We never charged anybody before," said Steve Suchta, a war memorial association member. "I'm a 100 percent backer of baseball down here. But I'm not a 100 percent backer of charging anyone to play ball."
Ron Muldoon and Phyllis "Peaches" Glass both said it would be difficult for fans to travel to Altoona to watch games, and it would hurt the community if the team left or disbanded.
Hurley said there's no reason why the team can't find some volunteers to help and eliminate the need for a fee.
"I know that Ron is taking this personally ... it's not something that is personal," he said. "There's no reason that he needed to carry the weight for the entire team. He shouldn't have to. And he's not able to."
A Lilly War Memorial Association special meeting is set for 7 p.m. Sunday in the Lilly Borough building. City league team supporters are welcome to attend, Hurley said.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.