'A League of Their Own'

Darryl Summerfield saw the need for Central Point's Junior Comet Sports program 30 years ago, and he's still running it
Darryl Summerfield chats with new Junior Comets Sports recruit Kamryn Schieder, 10, during a sign-up at Crater High School.Bob Pennell

CENTRAL POINT — While he is unlikely to sustain as many dings as when he played baseball for Oregon State University in the 1960s, those who know Junior Comet Sports founder Darryl Summerfield say if he were scraped up, his blood would flow the color of Crater Comet orange.

After looking for a place for his third-grade son to play flag football in the early 1980s, the Crater High alumnus and retired teacher and coach started the now 30-year-old organization.

Celebrating three decades this summer, Junior Comets has offered volleyball, flag football and baseball to kids in grades 2 through 8.

For his part, Summerfield has literally been involved in Central Point schools and the community since he was 6 years old; attending all District 6 schools, then returning as a teacher and coach, before retiring in 2000.

A 1964 Crater High graduate, and a home run record holder for the OSU baseball team, Summerfield found himself as a young father headed for a YMCA football program with his son one afternoon in 1983.

When he realized only a handful of Central Point families had ventured to neighboring cities for sports not available closer to home, he reasoned that his hometown could easily have "a league of their own."

Recruiting local families, players and former school coaches and players, Summerfield mustered an inaugural year lineup of 14, 12-member flag football teams in 1984.

A $12 registration fee included professional grade jerseys adorned with NFL logos and a coaching staff of former varsity head coaches and assistants.

Baseball and basketball coach Jeff Lang, who serves on the organization's board, marvels at the longevity of both the Junior Comets and Summerfield's dedication.

"Junior Comets is very unique and it's just something that has always been headed up by a small group of people that really have a passion for kids in our community," Lang said.

With registration still costing less than in other organizations — $35 in most cases per season — Lang said Junior Comets is completely volunteer-run and serves 700 to 1,000 young athletes each year with its trio of sports offerings.

"It's great because the kids get equal playing time and it's not based on skill. All the kids get the same opportunities and it's about athletics and sportsmanship and social interaction."

Summerfield shrugs off any recognition, crediting the countless parents and community volunteers who keep the organization on its feet.

"I guess we seem to still be cooking along for right now," Summerfield said recently.

"It's pretty unique in that we offer opportunities for kids around the valley and it's affordable for families."

Volleyball coach Carmen Kievit, who has lived and coached in other places she's lived, said the Junior Comets format is an effective way to vest a community in sports.

Kievit said Summerfield is a community treasure and that the organization was better run than most.

"Darryl has influenced so many people's lives from children through adults. He will probably never know how many people's lives he has impacted in such an important way," she said.

"I just have never seen a program like this before that's just wonderful all the way around. It's low cost, everyone makes the team and parents get involved with volunteer coaching. And then the kids come back with their kids or they coach. It's just a beautiful cycle."

While three decades has come and gone, Summerfield, sporting a beard recently in support of a slew of 30th anniversary events planned for the year, said the time "sure has flown by."

While he's nearing seven decades as Central Point's biggest advocate for youth sports, the 67-year-old said he couldn't imagine hanging up his coach's whistle anytime soon.

"People always ask how much longer am I going to do this and I really don't have an answer. Sometimes it feels like we're just getting started," he said.

"I guess the answer is that I'll do it for as long as I'm able and for as long as I enjoy it. Both those things are going my way right now. It's really kind of amazing how fast the time has flown by. I guess it's true that they say time flies when you're having fun."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.