Congratulations and Thank You, Mr. Foster

UPPER DUBLIN >> In recognition of 35 years of volunteer work in area youth sports leagues — 10 of which were spent as baseball commissioner — Ken Foster will be awarded an Outstanding Citizen medal by the Upper Dublin Medals Program during on May 16.

Sitting in his living room on a recent Monday afternoon, Foster said he was “surprised” when got the call about the medal. “I’ve been to a lot of these [Upper Dublin Medal] affairs, and I guess I never thought anybody would ever nominate me. I’m just a volunteer.”

But being “just a volunteer” is precisely why the selection committee chose Foster for the acknowledgement.

Over four decades of volunteer service, Foster has filled nearly every role vital to the Upper Dublin Junior Athletic Association and Upper Dublin Youth Football league, serving as a coach and commissioner, as an equipment manager and recruiter. He even tends to the snack stand before and after games.

Foster said his volunteer service started during the early ’80s, when his kids started getting into sports.

“At first, I guess it was soccer and baseball,” he said. “This fella took over, and I joined [to] help him out. I went out and got sponsorships and recruited kids to play soccer.

“They were down to about 400 people involved in soccer” at that time. Now, that number is “up to about 2,300,” he added, with a hint of pride.

After time, “I coached baseball, and I just followed that all the way up,” as the kids progressed through the league. “You know, from tee-ball to machine pitch, to coaches pitch, to kids pitch, to travel. It’s very rewarding. ... I coached a couple years, then became a commissioner of a league for three or four years, and then became overall baseball commissioner for eight or nine years.”

These days, he’s put the more hands-on work in youth sports behind him.

“I’m done coaching,” he said. “I’ve got two bad shoulders. I can’t throw a baseball 10 feet.”

Even so, the 70-year-old Foster, who retired after 40 years with Verizon around 2008, hasn’t stepped away from his volunteer work.

“I handle all the football equipment for the youth football program,” he said. “I’m out there all the time with them.”

Of Foster’s ongoing help and support, Chistopher Reif, the Upper Dublin Youth Football commissioner, said, “His unwavering commitment to the youth football program is reflected in the success of the kids from the program on and off the field. I may be the commissioner but Mr. Foster makes sure I run the program to the highest standard.”

Doug Horn, a former football commissioner who also served on the UDJAA board with Foster, said “[Foster’s] time commitment and dedication is unparalleled. He is always around helping to keep the program going on a day-to-day basis during summer camp in August, during evening practices and on game days.

“Everyone is aware of what Ken does during those times,” Horn added. “What goes unnoticed is Ken’s commitment behind the scenes. He handles those tasks that everyone takes for granted and just seem to magically happen when no one is around.

“It could be making sure helmets get refurbished every season, making sure there is gas in the tanks for the soda system in the snack stand, making sure the snack stand is cleaned weekly, making sure equipment is distributed and then returned and stored properly, getting the ice machine fixed and much, much more.”

When asked about all that behind-the-scenes work — those many necessary though occasionally tedious tasks — Foster shrugged and said, “They’re jobs that have to be done, and you can’t ask people to do them if you don’t do them.”

And, while he seemed genuinely touched by all the praise he’s received lately, Foster, with quiet humility, also maintained that he’s just one of many dedicated volunteers.

“There’s been a lot of volunteers. Can’t do it without them,” he said. “You may have somebody like me, that might push them a little bit, might go out and try to recruit them or whatever, but it’s just a way of staying involved.”

Lastly, when asked if he knows what he’ll say to the crowd at the Upper Dublin Medal ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, Foster shook his head and said, “Very little. Very little.

“Don’t come if you don’t want to see a grown man cry.”