Youth sports stal­wart Ken Foster named Out­stand­ing Cit­i­zen

Springfield Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Dutch God­shalk dgod­shalk@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @dutch­god­shalk on Twit­ter

UP­PER DUBLIN >> In recog­ni­tion of 35 years of vol­un­teer work in area youth sports leagues — 10 of which were spent as base­ball com­mis­sioner — Ken Foster will be awarded an Out­stand­ing Cit­i­zen medal by the Up­per Dublin Medals Program dur­ing on May 16.

Sit­ting in his liv­ing room on a re­cent Mon­day af­ter­noon, Foster said he was “surprised” when got the call about the medal. “I’ve been to a lot of these [Up­per Dublin Medal] af­fairs, and I guess I never thought any­body would ever nom­i­nate me. I’m just a vol­un­teer.”

But be­ing “just a vol­un­teer” is pre­cisely why the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee chose Foster for the ac­knowl­edge­ment.

Over four decades of vol­un­teer ser­vice, Foster has filled nearly ev­ery role vi­tal to the Up­per Dublin Ju­nior Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion and Up­per Dublin Youth Foot­ball league, serv­ing as a coach and com­mis­sioner, as an equip­ment man­ager and re­cruiter. He even tends to the snack stand be­fore and af­ter games.

Foster said his vol­un­teer ser­vice started dur­ing the early ’80s, when his kids started get­ting into sports.

“At first, I guess it was soc­cer and base­ball,” he said. “This fella took over, and I joined [to] help him out. I went out and got spon­sor­ships and re­cruited kids to play soc­cer.

“They were down to about 400 peo­ple in­volved in soc­cer” at that time. Now, that num­ber is “up to about 2,300,” he added, with a hint of pride.

Af­ter time, “I coached base­ball, and I just fol­lowed that all

the way up,” as the kids pro­gressed through the league. “You know, from tee-ball to ma­chine pitch, to coaches pitch, to kids pitch, to travel. It’s very re­ward­ing. ... I coached a cou­ple years, then be­came a com­mis­sioner of a league for three or four years, and then be­came over­all base­ball com­mis­sioner for eight or nine years.”

These days, he’s put the more hands-on work in youth sports be­hind him.

“I’m done coach­ing,” he said. “I’ve got two bad shoul­ders. I can’t throw a base­ball 10 feet.”

Even so, the 70-year-old Foster, who re­tired af­ter 40 years with Ver­i­zon around 2008, hasn’t stepped away from his vol­un­teer work.

“I han­dle all the foot­ball equip­ment for the youth foot­ball program,” he said. “I’m out there all the time with them.”

Of Foster’s on­go­ing help and sup­port, Chisto­pher Reif, the Up­per Dublin Youth Foot­ball com­mis­sioner, said, “His un­wa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to the youth foot­ball program is re­flected in the suc­cess of the kids from the program on and off the field. I may be the com­mis­sioner but Mr. Foster makes sure I run the program to the high­est stan­dard.”

Doug Horn, a for­mer foot­ball com­mis­sioner who also served on the UDJAA board with Foster, said “[Foster’s] time com­mit­ment and ded­i­ca­tion is un­par­al­leled. He is al­ways around help­ing to keep the program go­ing on a day-to-day ba­sis dur­ing sum­mer camp in Au­gust, dur­ing evening prac­tices and on game days.

“Ev­ery­one is aware of what Ken does dur­ing those times,” Horn added. “What goes un­no­ticed is Ken’s com­mit­ment be­hind the scenes. He han­dles those tasks that ev­ery­one takes for granted and just seem to mag­i­cally hap­pen when no one is around.

“It could be mak­ing sure hel­mets get re­fur­bished ev­ery sea­son, mak­ing sure there is gas in the tanks for the soda sys­tem in the snack stand, mak­ing sure the snack stand is cleaned weekly, mak­ing sure equip­ment is dis­trib­uted and then re­turned and stored prop­erly, get­ting the ice ma­chine fixed and much, much more.”

When asked about all that be­hind-the-scenes work — those many nec­es­sary though oc­ca­sion­ally te­dious tasks — Foster shrugged and said, “They’re jobs that have to be done, and you can’t ask peo­ple to do them if you don’t do them.”

And, while he seemed gen­uinely touched by all the praise he’s re­ceived lately, Foster, with quiet hu­mil­ity, also main­tained that he’s just one of many ded­i­cated vol­un­teers.

“There’s been a lot of vol­un­teers. Can’t do it with­out them,” he said. “You may have some­body like me, that might push them a lit­tle bit, might go out and try to re­cruit them or what­ever, but it’s just a way of stay­ing in­volved.”

Lastly, when asked if he knows what he’ll say to the crowd at the Up­per Dublin Medal cer­e­mony on Tues­day, May 16, Foster shook his head and said, “Very lit­tle. Very lit­tle.

“Don’t come if you don’t want to see a grown man cry.”

Ken Foster

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