Former Steamers president passes
Monday, November 7, 2016
EDENTON — The baseball team she helped keep in Chowan County could never repay her. So instead, it recognized Katy Ebersole as the heart and soul of the organization.
The Edenton Steamers mourned the loss of one of their strongest advocates in Ebersole, who passed away on Sunday. She had been battling brain cancer since 2014.
She was president of the club from 1999-2011 and did everything from providing host families for players and overseeing general operations to occasionally donning the mascot gear for Sam the Grand Slam Clam.
“The easiest way to say it is Katy was the Edenton Steamers,” general manager Tyler Russell said.
The on-field product blossomed under Ebersole, which included two Coastal Plain League Petitt Cup championships and 12 North Division titles.
It was her biggest achievement with Edenton, however, that prompted the Steamers to create an award in her name: the Katy Ebersole Heart and Soul Award, presented each season since 2012 to a player that exhibits traits similar to her passion and dedication.
The nation’s financial crisis of the late 2000s began to impact the Steamers in a lack of sponsorships, and despite a host of winning seasons and strong attendance, mounting debt threatened to shut down the franchise.
It prompted Ebersole to start a fundraising campaign in 2010 dubbed “Save Our Steamers” — yes, a dire SOS call — that actively asked fans to donate what they could to at least pay league dues for the following year.
The SOS was successful enough to do that and buy enough time for additional sponsors to return to Edenton.
“The team was done without that,” said Chris Bell, who was director of operations and general manager from 2009-10.
The Virginia Beach, Virginia native first came to Edenton in 1996 to open Waterman’s Grill in downtown Edenton with her husband, Rick, and good friend Brian Roberts.
Even after stepping down from duties as the Steamers’ president, she continued to serve on-and-off as a host family coordinator and treasurer on the Board of Directors.
Bell said she was always aware that she was blazing a trail as a woman in a male-dominated line of work. Ebersole made sure to give other women a chance to work with the team.
But it also took even more than that to gain the respect of the person with a boundless supply of energy and a smile that lit up a room.
“When she looked for people to help, experience was important, but she cared far more about your dedication to Edenton than your age,” Bell said.
While the Steamers never had one true owner during Ebersole’s stint, since it was the CPL’s lone community-run project, it was accepted that she was the face of the franchise. It was, in her mind, her service to the community.
She even worked some seasons as general manager when funding was again a struggle on top of running Waterman’s and a local fitness center.
“When you talked to her, all of that (other obligations) faded away, and you were the most important person,” Bell said. “I don’t know what she saw in me to make me director of operations at 20, but I’m glad she saw it. There’s not going to be another Katy Ebersole.
“The town of Edenton is a little bit of a darker place now (with her passing) that’s for sure.”
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday at Hicks Field for 1 p.m. and dress is ballpark casual. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ebersole’s name to Chowan’s Tri-County Animal Shelter.