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By Brad Spencer
Oak Parkers are going to be seeing a lot of jerseys and caps adorned with one particular Major League Baseball logo this spring, and it's sure to cause a stir with those who pledge allegiance to other ballclubs (or maybe not).
No matter where your loyalties fall or how strong they may be, the Chicago White Sox are coming to town. For the 2013 season, Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball players and coaches will be outfitted in Sox jerseys and caps. That's every player and coach, from T-ball all the way up to Bronco or 14U, in both baseball and softball.
The partnership with the Sox and Oak Park's youth baseball/softball organization isn't anything new. For 32 years, OPYB/S has been hosting White Sox Night, a fundraiser where players get to march in a parade on the field before taking in a game at U.S. Cellular Field. The organization was the first to hold a fundraising night back when the Sox played at Comiskey Park.
Now the Sox have extended their appreciation by providing uniforms for not only OPYB/S, but also leagues in Downers Grove, Elmhurst and Orland Park.
Other benefits to the partnership include the Sox featuring an OPYB/S player on the scoreboard at every homestand, and providing youth coaches with instructional videos. OPYB/S will also offer instructional opportunities for its participants through the White Sox Academy at reduced rates, according to Bill Sullivan, first-year president of OPYB/S and former director of the softball division. Sullivan will begin his sixth year as a member of the board in the spring.
"This partnership is far more than just receiving free uniforms, which, in itself, provides an economical enhancement to our budget," he said. "This will help us increase the funds for scholarships many times over, so that every kid who wants to play ball in Oak Park will have the opportunity."
Most of Oak Park's older youth teams will be wearing variations of White Sox uniforms. The various styles include white with black pinstripes, black, grey and 1983 throwback jerseys, to name a few, according to a White Sox press release.
Sullivan said that at the T-ball level, where in the past teams featured the names of different pro ballclubs, the White Sox uniforms will come in different colors.
"With around 64 teams at the lower level, we are going to have to get very creative on how we name them," he said, suggesting Red-White Sox, Blue-White Sox, etc., as possible team names. The upper levels will continue to be designated by the names of sponsors.
As for any conflicts of interest this might bring for, say, die-hard Cubs families, Sullivan, who calls himself a Chicago baseball fan, hopes those loyalists can look past the uniforms for the good of Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball.
"I can't speak for every citizen of Oak Park, but I think most people will see this as a massive improvement to the program as a whole. This alliance helps improve the quality of coaching and the quality of play."
The partnership agreement currently only covers the 2013 season, but Sullivan added, "Obviously, both sides are hoping that it is successful and that we can continue it in future years."