Summertime is for teasing your brain with things not usually part of your life. So here's a three-query quiz - maybe the first of more to come - about recreation-related things in and about Howard County. Reward yourself for correct answers with the satisfaction of knowing stuff many readers don't, yet.
Question: The Howard County Youth Program is unique among county youth organizations in that it has its own dedicated baseball and softball diamonds, the county-owned Kiwanis-Wallas Park on Route 144, a quick turn or two of your steering wheel off U.S. 40. But why Kiwanis? And who was Wallas?
Answer: Anton E. Wallas, a Route 144 merchant and landowner, and his wife, Emma, tried in the early 1950s to donate the 11-plus acres to county government if the county would care for their many cats. According to HCYP's history Web page, the county declined, and the Wallases gave the land (apparently cat-unencumbered) to the Kiwanis Club of Ellicott City "for the use of the children of Howard County."
In existence two years, HCYP (then called the Howard County Little League) began playing baseball on the land in 1954 and steadily added fields.
Early in 1990, when the Kiwanis Club proposed townhouse zoning for part of the land, HCYP balked and counter-proposed a county takeover. In October 1991, county records show, a deal was worked out, and county ownership began with a long-term lease of the property back to HCYP. Part of that deal was a proviso that the Kiwanis-Wallas name be perpetuated, said Gary J. Arthur, who helped arrange the transfer and now is county recreation and parks director.
Q: With school out and the focus on recreational activity outdoors (which is less accurate than you might think), what's happening inside most county schools this summer that basketball and volleyball players are sure to appreciate?
A: Schools with wooden gym floors - 53 of the county's 67 schools - are resurfacing their floors. Users of Columbia's Oakland Mills Middle School will find a new wood floor in place of the tile to which they've been accustomed.
"Every wood floor is resurfaced every summer," said Chuck Parvis, the school system's community services coordinator. "The wood floors last pretty much forever, if you take care of them. And we have pretty good-looking floors ... ."
As tile, rubber-coated, and even carpeted gym floors wear out at a few remaining elementary and middle schools, they're being replaced by wood flooring, Parvis said.
Floors are cleaned, relined, and coated with a water-based sealant, said Mario Williams, the school system's assistant custodial manager.
Parvis and Williams agree that the work is getting harder to schedule because of the increasing number of summer camps - basketball, baseball, volleyball, cheerleading, to name a few - that require school facilities. The work requires a week of down time; optimally, two weeks, Williams said.
Any unusual problems this summer?
"Not really," Williams said - except for the frogs at River Hill High School. "There were these little frogs - we don't know where they came from - all over the place."
Q: Browse schedules or talk with people involved in county softball, and you can't miss hearing about "ASA," "NSA," and "USSSA," or as some call it, "U-triple S-A." What's with the alphabet soup?
A: The Amateur Softball Association, the National Softball Association, and the United States Specialty Sports Association are rival national groups that profess to best serve the sport's true followers. Nuances in rules, philosophy, equipment standards and local tradition distinguish the three, all of which conduct national competitions.
ASA, formed in 1933 with its headquarters in Oklahoma City, claims 2.4 million adult and 1.2 million youth players in slow- and fast-pitch play. Recognized as softball's governing body by the U.S. Olympic Committee, ASA selects players to represent the United States in international play.
NSA, formed in 1984 in Lexington, Ky., is primarily a fast-pitch organization that, some enthusiasts say, is the fastest growing of all three groups. It stresses competitive play, in addition to playing for fun. Its size is a mystery - it can't be discerned from its Web site.
The USSSA, based in Petersburg, Va., was formed in 1968 as a slow-pitch organization, but expanded three years ago to include fast-pitch softball, as well as baseball, basketball and golf. It claims 95,000 affiliated teams nationally.
Most Howard County adult leagues, for men and women, play ASA-sanctioned slow-pitch ball. Some, with relatively less-experienced players, are on USSSA-sanctioned teams. Most county youth teams are ASA affiliates, although some select teams compete in NSA tournaments.