Congratulations to Chloe Bayol, who became the 20th recipient of the Nell Baham Achievement Award at the fifth-grade promotion at Sinclair Elementary School on May 30.
Chloe is the daughter of Christine Bayol and Domenico Catalano and was a student in Barbara Smith’s class. She was selected to receive this award based on her overall achievement. Chloe is an honor roll student, exhibits good citizenship traits and her teachers speak of her overall actions as outstanding.
Students who receive this prestigious award must exhibit good citizenship traits, excel in academics and make worthy contributions to Sinclair and within the community. Chloe has done just that and has attended Sinclair since kindergarten. She will continue her education at Lanier Middle School in the fall.
Nell Baham, a retired educator and our neighbor in Shepherd Forest, is pleased that this award, established in 1999 in her honor by then-PTA president Jill Hlavinka, is still a hallmark of achievement at Sinclair. It was established to recognize Baham’s dedication to the education of children for more than three decades. She taught at Sinclair for more than half that time.
Baham received the 2008 Leader of the Year award, which is given by The Leader to someone in the community who makes a difference in the lives of others. She retired from the University of Houston in 2017 and continues to be involved in and dedicated to education, giving her time and talent volunteering in neighborhood schools and tutoring. Many of her UH students are now teachers in our neighborhood schools.
Baham is an active member of St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church and makes many contributions to community service. She considers the Nell Baham Achievement Award a great honor and ranks it at the top of the list of the many awards she has received during her 60 years as an educator. Baham was the guest speaker at Sinclair’s promotion ceremony and presented the award to Chloe. Lee Mashburn, a former student of Baham’s, is the principal at Sinclair.
For decades, area families have had two excellent choices regarding where their children have their first Little League Tee ball, baseball and softball experience. Timbergrove Sports Association and Oaks Dads Club both serve area youth and are chock full of volunteers determined to create safe, fun and competitive recreational opportunities for our community’s children and to teach valuable life skills such as teamwork, sportsmanship and skill development.
This spring, Timbergrove Sports Association’s Mike Maddux (division director of 8U Softball, division director of Pony baseball and this spring, he was the coach for four teams, including the Pony Indians) and Oaks Dads Club’s Daniel De Los Santos (president of the baseball board this last year as well as coach of the Pony Astros and coach of a minor league team this spring) were inspired. Both had noticed the numbers of players are shrinking at the Pony level, ages 13-15, and want to draw more young men into the community’s Pony leagues. At this age, boys are playing for traveling and select teams, their middle and high school teams and also exploring other extracurricular activities, and don’t always come back to their community’s Little League fields.
For years ODC and TSA have rotated back and forth – one always had more Pony league teams than the other. At this age group they’ve been dependent on each other to have someone else to play and these two leagues have been playing each other for years.
For example, this spring there were enough boys registered to make up one Pony team at ODC: the Cardinals, who were coached by Joe Arguijo and Jason Holcombe. However, after the sign-up deadline, all of a sudden there were enough boys to create a second team, but no coaches available. De Los Santos and Rocky Castillo, both already committed to coaching younger teams, stepped up to coach the second ODC Pony team, the Astros, so the boys could play.
De Los Santos said, “We decided we couldn’t tell these kids they can’t play.” Maddux added, “There are so many kids who are missing out on Pony league ball.”
TSA’s Maddux and ODC’s De Los Santos both have a common denominator: “Let’s do this for the kids.” With two Pony teams out of ODC, one Pony team out of TSA and three Pony teams out of Heights/Norhill, they had a season and a plan.
De Los Santos said, “We felt we were missing out on a lot of kids – and we wanted to bring more 13–15 year-old ballplayers back to the Pony field. We had this brilliant plan. We had the same idea. We didn’t care who they played for as long as they were willing to play and learn. If we can keep these kids away from things they shouldn’t be doing, help build them up, give them positive reinforcement and confidence within themselves, and hopefully help them make their high school teams when they go to high school, that was it. Mike and I had the same passion. And of course, Rocky, Joe and Jason as well. We don’t need to have a relative or son on that team in order to coach and help build good character traits. At the end of the day, I think it helped me more than it helped them.”
Once the spring season ended, the all-star team was formed and for the first time in anyone’s memory at TSA and ODC, one team was formed from both TSA and ODC players. Maddux said, “Daniel coordinated to play some games against TSA – and these were some super competitive games. We also played some in-season games against Heights/Norhill’s Pony league as well. At some point, we started talking about all-stars and mixing the teams. These two leagues came together so well – players, parents and coaches. The players had a blast and so did we.”
The all-star exhibition game was played June 15 – the ODC/TSA team against the Heights/Norhill team drawn from its three Pony teams – a real collaboration between the three Leagues – and what a game it was! Two all-star teams, full of teens who have played together on their Little League, middle and high school teams and some of whom have played together since they were in Tee ball, played their hearts out at the ODC Pony Field.