A recently resurrected historic Cleveland youth baseball league is gaining legal and financial footing, thanks to the work of two Case Western Reserve University students.
Since fall, third-year law students Mia Ulery and James Walsh have been helping the B-Buzz Baseball League, which restarted just two years ago as a community effort after being dormant for about 30 years due to a lack of interest and funding.
“B-Buzz has provided Mia and I invaluable professional experience and a platform to give back to the Greater Cleveland community we love so much,” Walsh said. “For this we are sincerely grateful.”
Wendell Fields, a former B-Buzz player and now league commissioner, decided to bring the joy of baseball back to the southeast Cleveland neighborhood of Harvard-Lee-Miles, where he grew up.
“We all grew up, and our parents stopped participating,” said Fields, explaining the league’s demise. “Our goal is to rekindle the youths’ involvement in the community.”
Fields sought the help of Case Western Reserve’s Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center to establish B-Buzz as a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, the Internal Revenue Service classification that will help the league raise money from donors.
“We wanted to set it up the right way,” Fields said. “We’re looking, hopefully, to have the designation we need by April. It means everything. We’ll be able to apply for grants and seek sources of funds. It’s really a positive.”
When it was an active league, B-Buzz taught team-building, hard work and dedication to hundreds of Cleveland boys. Many became community or business leaders, lawyers, doctors and even pro athletes, Fields said.
“I started in B-Buzz when I was 9 years old,” said Fields, now 53. “It was my life. It was something we did every day in the summer. It gave me a sense of worth.”
A few years ago, Fields, who now runs a property management company, contacted former B-Buzz players like himself for a reunion game. About 60 showed up. More importantly, the former players decided to resurrect the league so neighborhood children could benefit as they did.
They chose to keep the B-Buzz name, which refers to a beekeeper who supposedly formed the league in the 1950s. Fields isn’t sure who that beekeeper was, but the story is part of local lore.
Working under the guidance of Professor Matt Rossman, who heads the law school’s Community Development Clinic, Ulery and Walsh have counseled Fields on the 501(c)(3) application process since last semester.
“We had to do a lot of background research,” Ulery said.
The students also advised Fields and his league board of directors through their first meeting and during the process to adopt a code of regulations. B-Buzz’s alumni demonstrate the lasting impact the league can have on the professional success of its participants, Ulery said.
“These kids are learning more than baseball,” she said. “They learn teamwork, dedication and sportsmanship. So, as my clinic partner James and I are working on filings with government agencies and organizational documents, we always keep in mind that we are helping lay the groundwork for a strong organization that has the power to improve the lives of Cleveland youth, just like it did so many years ago. These kids are the future leaders of our community.”
Although it was previously a boys-only league, B-Buzz now accepts both boys and girls. Fields is trying to establish a T-ball league for children ages 6 to 8, and continue baseball teams for boys and girls ages 9 to 13.
B-Buzz Baseball boasts a few professional athletes, including Craig Thompson, who played in the minor leagues of baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers, former NFL player Desmond Howard and Warrensville Heights Mayor Brad Sellers, who played in the NBA.
The Community Development Clinic is one of the law school’s six clinics, in which students work full time for a semester or part time for two semesters as part of a nationally recognized experiential education capstone program.
This article was originally published Feb. 21, 2017.