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Jamie Harrison volunteered to organize and coach a cricket team with the Linthicum Ferndale Youth Athletic Association this spring.
The team consisted of 13 boys and girls ranging from ages 7 to 11. It was the only team of its kind in Anne Arundel County.
They practiced a couple times a week on the big field behind Overlook Elementary School and played a few matches in a season that ended last week in a loss to a team from Bowie. Kids and parents reportedly had a great time playing and look forward to doing it again next spring and summer.
All of this sounds pretty standard until you get the opportunity to meet and talk with Harrison, a Ferndale resident, who in the past six years has become the leading voice in the United States for the growth and expansion of cricket.
He is the president of the Maryland Youth Cricket Association and the United States Youth Cricket Association, and the CEO of the American Cricket Federation. The federation is a rival to the internationally-sanctioned USA Cricket Association, an organization which Harrison said is dysfunctional, widely derided and openly mocked due to it being $3 million in debt and fielding a national team that does not achieve much success.
Those are pretty impressive sporting titles for a regular local guy who works in information technology at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and spends his downtime teaching newcomers in places like Linthicum about a game that is popular worldwide but not well-known to most Americans.
"Roger Goodell," commissioner of the NFL, "would not be the head coach of a pee wee pop football team," joked Harrison as he told me about his dedication to a game that he was only introduced to six years ago when he was teaching history at Cardinal Gibbons High School.
He and his students were touring a Civil War battlefield in Richmond, Virginia, when they stumbled upon a re-enactor of a regiment that played cricket to pass the time between battles. He and the students spent the afternoon playing, and Harrison was hooked on a game that he calls "cerebral, creative and very imaginative."
Harrison took an interest in the game and found out that it is not in very good shape at all in this country - though not the worst in the world. The national team recently defeated Denmark to avoid finishing in last place of a 16-team international tournament.
"Thank God for Denmark," he laughed.
Along with a few others, he founded the United States Youth Cricket Association in 2010. The group dedicates its efforts to spreading the game by donating cricket sets to schools and providing training sessions with physical education teachers who can then teach it to students as part of a unit. Harrison said he has helped get 400 cricket sets into Maryland schools and 1,500 into schools nationwide.
"Cricket in this country is in a state where everyone has to pull their weight plus some," Harrison said. "You have to say yes and volunteer and do a lot of things. I am involved at every level - youth and adult - because this is the way we are right now. You either get it done yourself or it doesn't get done."
By Harrison's estimates, if only 5 percent of American children began playing cricket, the United States would become a world powerhouse within the next 10 years.
"We have everything here to make the United States one of the best cricket playing nations in the world, except that it hasn't been widely to kids," he said. "That's what we are trying to correct."
"If we could get people in the United States behind cricket, overnight things would change and this would be one more sport we ruled the world at."
Brayden Spurgeon and Brandon Mejia, both 7-year-olds at St. Philip Neri School, learned the game in gym class from teacher Travis Bateman and played on the LYFAA team this season. Kids like them are a major part of Harrison's grassroots vision for world cricket domination.
"It was neat seeing people's reactions when they asked Brayden what sports he plays," said his mother Christy. "He would say, 'I play baseball and cricket.' People's reactions were just priceless. 'You play what?' they asked."
Amy Mejia credited Harrison for his ability to teach kids who are born and raised on games like basketball, baseball and football.
"I give him so much credit trying to teach a whole lot of kids a new sport," she said. "It took a lot of patience, and he pretty much did it by himself."
Harrison said the major failing of the internationally sanctioned United States Cricket Association is not teaching more kids like Brayden and Brenden about the sport. With the financial resources for sports in this country unrivaled, Harrison said there is absolutely no reason for the United States to not have at least a very competitive national team. Currently, Australia, India and Sri Lanka have the top ranked cricket teams in the world, according to the International Cricket Council.
In the meantime, this quietly passionate and determined cricket advocate will continue his efforts to spread the game one donated cricket set and one youth program at a time.
"The great thing about cricket is you don't have to be the biggest or the strongest or the fastest or the tallest to succeed," Harrison said. "Cricket is a game that rewards technique. It rewards patience."
Last summer concert
The General Federation of Women's Clubs Women's Club of Linthicum Heights will hold its final summer concert in the park at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Crabtowne Big Band, an 18-piece swing band, will play a little bit of everything. The focus is music from the era of Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller and Count Basie. It also performs big band arrangements of the music of modern pop stars as diverse as Lionel Ritchie, Bobby McFerrin, Barbara Streisand and Brian Setzer.
Do bring lawn chairs, blankets and coolers. Do not bring alcoholic beverages.
For details, call Jo Barker at 410-859-3308.
Fair planning meeting
There will be a planning meeting for the 25th annual Linthicum Community Fair at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Friendship Room of St. John Lutheran Church, 300 W. Maple Road.
The fair will be held on Sept. 27 at St. John's field on the corner of Hammonds Ferry and Maple roads.
For details, contact Sandy Hartzell at 410-456-3019 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seeking new members
The Linthicum Lions Club will host an informational session at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Italia's Corner Cafe, 7089 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., for prospective members.
"Our club gives members an opportunity to advance worthy causes, serve with friends and become leaders in the community. This club means a lot to our Lions, but it means so much more to the people we serve," wrote club President Jim Katzaman in a press release.
"We want to share the great things we're doing in the community, and let others know how they can help," Katzaman wrote.
For details, email email@example.com
Cars and crafts
For the second year, the Linthicum Heights United Methodist Church, 200 School Lane, will host its Sizzling Summer Days car show and craft extravaganza from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 23.
Lunch will be available in the church's fellowship hall with a menu that will include grilled chicken and pulled pork sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, desserts and beverages.
Those wishing to show their cars must pay a registration fee of $25. Registrations can be done online at www.lhumc.org or from 8 a.m. to noon on the day of the show.
A craft fair featuring local crafters and home party vendors will be held at the same time. Vendor spaces cost $25 and must be reserved by Aug. 20 online at www.lhumc.org.
Registration for the show or craft fair includes one free meal.
Admission for those who would like to view the cars and shop the fair is free.
For details on the car show, contact Pat Renes at 410-627-5317 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To rent a craft or vendor space, contact Carolyn Morgan at 410-925-5571 or email@example.com
Alexander Chiodi of Jamie Harrison's Linthicum Ferndale Youth Athletic Association cricket team bats in a match against Bowie. The LYFAA cricket team is the only one of its kind in Anne Arundel County.