2018-06-21 / Sports

Youth league moves on without Popp

by Grant McPherson
of the Enterprise staff

KRIS POPP poses for a picture with the St. Mary mascot. KRIS POPP poses for a picture with the St. Mary mascot. “No doubt we miss her.”

St. Mary athletic director Teresa Szur remembers what Kris Popp did not only for St. Mary Schools, but what she did to meet the needs of those less fortunate she came in contact with.

And, when it came to young baseball and softball players in Leelanau County, Popp did so much.

When the Enterprise needed information on the Leelanau County Youth League, it turned to Popp. She sent in scores and standings on a weekly basis so county kids could see their team in the paper.

So when Popp died of cancer in November, she left big shoes to fill.

“Kris Popp was a very unselfish person who contributed so much to her community and to her family,” said Paula Korson, the development director at St. Mary. “Through her years of battling cancer she was always willing to land to help out in anyway she could.”

The WordPress website run by Popp for the youth league is no longer available to view, but others are doing their best to fill in this summer. Youth league coordinators have come together and divvied up the workload; Rebecca Chavalia will be tasked with submitting scores.

But as county kids begin another year of summer ball, many have heavy hearts.

Through thick and thin, Popp not only made time for her own family, but also the family of friends she met.

“I admired Kris in how she made one whole family from Dale’s daughter, her daughter and their children,” Korson said. “They were seen together in church, at ball games and at choir concerts. She truly loved her family.”

Jean LaCross, the former development director at St. Mary, spoke of how courageous Popp was and what she was able to accomplish around the county, and for St. Mary.

“Kris was probably the most courageous, faith-filled person I know,” LaCross said. “She fought cancer hard for 10 years. She fought through so much, and she knew it wasn’t going to get better, but she still kept going.”

LaCross related how Popp really believed in youth sports and enjoyed being around the kids of Leelanau County.

“She really believed in youth and the value of sports,” LaCross said. “She loved the kids, and believed that each kid deserved the best opportunity possible. Kris was really enthusiastic about life, and just the most courageous person I’ve ever met.”

During the 2018 softball season, St. Mary hosted the first Kris Popp Memorial Tournament. Part of the proceeds from the event were donated to the Leelanau Cancer Foundation in Popp’s name.

The other portion of the proceeds is being utilized for scholarships in Popp’s name. The Kris Popp Memorial tournament will be an annual event from now on, and the 2019 field for the softball tournament is already full of teams ready to compete.

“As the varsity volleyball coach and softball coach, I really enjoyed having Kris as my scorekeeper,” Szur said. “I never had to worry if the book was incorrect, and more often than not, whether we were the home or away team, the officials would refer to Kris’ book if there were any questions.

“Kris left us with a high standard and example to follow,” Szur said. “She used her time, talents and treasurers to advance the mission of St. Mary and to meet the needs of those less fortunate that she came into contact with. She did more ‘living’ in the past four years than most people do in a lifetime.”

Popp’s daughter, starting St. Mary pitcher Shannon Popp, said her mother really shaped her into who she is today.

Kris Popp was the best mom she could ask for.

“I honestly can’t think of words that are good enough to describe how amazing she truly was,” Shannon Popp said.

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