- Published: Thursday, 26 May 2016 08:44
Dan Mangum is a busy guy who prides himself on all he does for the backstretch workers, primarily at Laurel Park.
A high school coach, he is responsible for recreational activities and special events at the track. Since March, he has been driving a nine-passenger van, taking backstretch workers – the lifeblood of the tracks – to doctors’ appointments and more, as the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and track management responded to the workers’ request for transportation.
But Mangum, 68, is just one man – albeit one very busy man. So the MTHA has brought in Marty Leonard to shoulder some of the load.
Jockey agent for Sheldon Russell and Jevian Toledo, Leonard, 33, will help manage the sports activities for the backstretch workers.
He has a degree in sports management from Neumann University near Philadelphia and wanted to put his education to use. Leonard will allow Mangum to focus on the van trips, bowling, clothing drive and special activities like the backstretch picnic, Thanksgiving dinner and the Christmas party.
Leonard will take over the planning and operation of most of the sports and recreation activities – like the already established poker, golf, softball and 3-on-3 basketball games, and a bunch of new ones. “We added kickball this spring,” Leonard says, a smile in his voice.
“We had about 15 people the first week and 30 the second week. Everyone said they were the best in their class at kickball in the third grade.”
He also is adding flag football, dodge ball, a fantasy football league and more.
Mangum adds there will be a pool tournament and ping pong will be coming because a like-new ping pong table was donated to the newly refurbished recreation room in May by Martin Chamberlain.
The hardest thing about the job, Leonard has learned, is finding activities for everyone to do. Employees on the backstretch range in age from 18 to 60.
Bowling and softball draw men and women of all ages.
“We’re reaching out to everyone,” says Leonard. “We want everyone to be able to do something they enjoy and act more like a family. We sometimes may be dysfunctional, but we are a family. We’d like to see more people take advantage of what we have. It’s really my goal. I just want people to come and have fun."
“When I walk in and see the people here, it puts a smile on my face,” he says. “I’m happy to be here with them.”
And Mangum is happy to devote more time to the van service.
When the need for transportation emerged from regularly scheduled forums the MTHA has been holding with backstretch workers since last summer, the van service was launched with trips to Social Services and the MTA. Now, trips are scheduled for Walmart, laundromats, grocery stores, doctors’ offices and dentists.
Mangum also is scheduling trips for bowling, movies, mall shopping, lunch and even Bowie Baysox baseball games. Two more trips to the Baysox are scheduled for July 27 and Aug. 11.
“Our van holds nine,” says Mangum. “Usually we have from four to eight on board. I take them wherever they want to go. Our trips are usually from noon until about 3:30, but if someone needs to go somewhere for an appointment, I don’t mind coming in early. I was here at 8 a.m. today."
“It’s a wonderful thing for the backstretch. It gives people something to do and somewhere to go. They all say what a difference it makes for them.”
MTHA Executive Director David Richardson says he doesn’t want anyone at Maryland’s racetracks to feel neglected.
“We want to build a sense of community on the backstretch.” Richardson says. “For a while, this seemed like a forgotten place. This can no longer be said with our group’s commitment to making sure everyone shares in Maryland racing’s revival”