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Highlands' 50-inning game has special significance

| Sunday, July 28, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

Highlands Little League has hosted its “50 Innings of Baseball” before, mainly to celebrate the game and give the community something unique to do on a summer Saturday.

This year's event, however, will take on a more serious tone.

Supporters will hit the diamond for a baseball marathon to honor Ryan Richards, the Highlands two-sport athlete who was killed July 12 in an automobile accident.

Opening ceremonies are set for 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the first pitch at 10. Play will continue under the lights and will end after the 50th inning or at 11 p.m.

“He was a great kid. He was a good friend to everybody. He was a good student,” Highlands baseball coach Jeff Weissert said of Richards. “As a ballplayer, he gave you everything he had. He was somebody that the kids looked up to as a leader.”

The nature of the event is fitting.

Richards played at every level possible in Highlands Little League.

Proceeds will go to the Ryan Richards Memorial Fund. Money raised will be used to help pay for funeral expenses and the establishment of a scholarship in Richards' name.

The Golden Rams Diamond Club boosters, who oversee use of the field, had no problems letting the facility be used for the event.

“I think it's going to be two or three times the amount of people this year,” Highlands Little League president Gene Kosakowski said.

“We've had upwards of 200 to 300 people (at past events).”

Registration is $10 for participants.

Those 13 and older will play on the high school field, and children 12 and younger will be on one of the smaller fields nearby.

Donations will be accepted from nonparticipants who would rather watch.

And officials promise there will be plenty to do besides baseball. A dunk tank, which had been popular at previous fundraisers, will return as will live music.

“Ryan was a kid that you couldn't say anything bad about. It's easy for everyone to do anything in his memory,” Little League manager Randy Jewart said.

“It's very easy to get people to volunteer.”

T-shirts also will be available for purchase, as well as memorial rubber wristband.

Organizers scrambled to get the 50-inning game together. Work that once took months of preparation was compressed into just three weeks.

The hardest part of the fundraiser, traditionally, ended up being one of the easiest tasks to accomplish.

Highlands Football Gridiron Club, which had no previous connection to the event, volunteered to run the concession stands.

Support continues to pour in for the Richards family.

Highlands' National Honor Society raised more than $2,500 at a recent car wash. Other organizations are also planning events for the same benefit.

“That's the kind of impact (Richards) had on everybody. He was well-known; he was liked by everybody,” Weissert said.

“It shows you how much his loss affects the community.”

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

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