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Sarra, Alberta honored by league

| Thursday, Oct. 21, 2004

The Little League baseball ball players who use the Fayette City baseball field are too young to remember the two men who forged their "field of dreams" through old-fashioned hard work and dedication.

The legacies of Bernard Sarra Sr. and the late Joe Alberta will live on forever though, as the Fayette City Recreation League named the field and pavilion in their honor.

"They just don't make men like this anymore," said recreation league member Paula Cowell. "Benny and Joe were the heart and soul of this organization."

At the age of 92, the spry Sarra isn't showing any signs of slowing down as he is still president of the recreation league, an organization he helped form in 1958.

Alberta, who died in 1993 at the age of 80, was known as "Mr. Baseball" as he dedicated his life to the sport and spent countless hours maintaining the ball field.

"We had a great relationship," Sarra recalls. "I handled the financial part and Joe took care of the maintenance."

Alberta was known for years as the Fayette City Little League commissioner and could often be found at the baseball field taking care of every little detail. He was also one of the founders of Fayette City's Little League.

He used to cut the outfield grass with a push mower before he got a tractor and hand built the bleachers.

In 1965, when Alberta was laid up for six months due to a medical condition, he shrugged off doctors' orders to stop working at the field.

"That's the kind of guy he was," Sarra said.

Sarra recalls the time he tried to help out his friend by cutting the grass at the field.

"He had a particular way of going about it and he shooed me off the field," Sarra said with a laugh.

These days Sarra and the recreation league are still keeping Alberta's memory alive by naming the field in his honor.

"They (the recreation board) initially thought about naming the field for me," Sarra said. "But I told them, no, this is Joe's field, this was his baby."

The league wanted to honor Sarra, too, so they named the pavilion after him.

Both signs were donated by the Mon Valley Community Federal Credit Union in Allenport.

Sarra is still active as the recreation league's president and takes pride in the history of the organization.

"In May, 1958, I received a telephone call from two parents wanting to meet with me about starting some type of activity in Fayette City to get the children off the streets," Sarra said.

They called a town meeting and formed the recreation league. Sarra proudly notes that the organization has never received any money from council and has relied solely on itself.

In 1959, the recreation board signed a 50-year lease with council stating it had sole control of the Fayette City Community Ball Field, since it was bought and paid for by the people of the community.

The lease was extended for another 90 years in 1984.

Sarra proudly notes that the league has enabled children from Fayette City and neighboring communities to participate in their activities.

"We bought uniforms and all of the equipment to operate our programs," Sarra said. "All programs were free with no fees to parents for their children to participate."

Money to operate their programs was raised from donations and from the refreshment stands, with board members volunteering their time and making most of the food.

Although the recreation league members have changed over the years, their dedication and mission hasn't wavered.

The league still coordinates activities and maintains the Fayette City Ball Field. Currently the Belle Vernon Area High School baseball team as well as the soccer teams and other baseball teams use the ballpark. The pavilion is also rented out for picnics, birthdays and other events.

Sarra credited the Belle Vernon Area School District school board members and Superintendent Robert Nagy for their support of the field and contributions to its upkeep.

"We've had a lot of support from the community and we're always grateful," Sarra said.

Sarra is not planning on retiring anytime soon from the recreation league, and is hoping future generations will carry on its mission to help the youth of Fayette City.

Current recreation members are Cowell, assistant secretary/vice chairwoman; Theresa Bergman, Michelle Pryor, Kelly Parshall, treasurer, Debbie Parshall, chairwoman of special events; Bob and Terrie Hall, secretary; Joe Dorcan, vice president; Lesa and George Farquhar and Donna Reach.

Sarra is also proud of his name hanging over the pavilion he worked hard to build and knows his old friend Joe Alberta would feel the same about his honor.

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