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SIJBL — More Than Just Baseball

Tom Vaughn
updated: 7/2/2009 1:17 AM

When Autumn Kellerman of DeSoto was attending a local little league ballgame and heard about a young man in her community facing a very serious health issue, she tried to think of what might be done.

Ben Robinson, of Elkville, had been diagnosed with a cancer which was not operable. The situation meant that Ben would be taking 24 chemotherapy treatments at Barnes Children's Hospital in St. Louis, taking a loving family to the Ronald McDonald house with plenty of outside expenses and a great deal to be concerned about.

It didn't take long for Kellerman to realize that she already knew of a powerful resource of people, with a history of serving youngsters, who would undoubtedly be an ideal group to help out. Kellerman is the current commissioner of the Southern Illinois Junior Baseball League, a collection of 14, mostly small, southern Illinois communities that sponsor baseball in their own respective areas. She was sure that, if asked, they would rise to the call. All she needed was a little gimmick that would help spark their interest, since they are all people teaching kids to appreciate challenge.

Autumn came up with an idea often used by macho coaches to stimulate their players.

 "I'll shave my head if we achieve our goal," she told them.

However, most of those coaches did not have attractive and nearly waist-length hair, with a husband who liked it, to sacrifice for the effort. But the challenge was issued. If each of the community programs could come up with $500 by July 19, Kellerman would not only cut the locks, but also have her head shaved "G. I. Jane" style.

It must have worked pretty well.

By June 27, the money was raised, the hair was gone, and Autumn Kellerman was able to show off her new look at the SIJBL baseball tournament at Bill Dennison Park in Christopher on June 29. It was appropriate that the dedication of Kellerman and the baseball league was in evidence this night because it was the evening that JoAnn Miner of Mulkeytown was being honored for her 40 years of service to the organization.

Kellerman says that she had no doubt that her group of people, who work tirelessly to give young boys and girls great experiences in baseball and softball, would come through for Robinson and his family. She had positive feelings about the endeavor from the very beginning and the SIJBL didn't disappoint.

For example, one of the member teams, Herrin, only had two teams in their organization this year. Kellerman felt it was only fair that the team only be held accountable for a goal of only $150. Instead, they quickly raised $750 for the effort, showing that her confidence in the organization she helps direct is well founded. Another member of the organization, Jennifer Willis of Johnston City, also decided to give up her hair in motivating her own active group in her town.

"They are just wonderful people," Kellerman stated about the SIJBL members. "They get very competitive with each other sometimes, but they are absolutely about the kids, period."

Communities involved in the SIJBL are:  Christopher, Creal Springs, DeSoto, Elkville, Herrin, Johnston City, Little Egypt, Royalton, Sesser, Tamaroa, Thompsonville, Waltonville, Woodlawn, and Zeigler.

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