By Tom Murphy
The bats bags, gloves and cleats are finally put away and the 2011 baseball season is officially over for La Jolla Youth Baseball. Before we head off into the fall sports season, let’s reflect for a moment and with the help of David Letterman’s “Top Ten” crew, what are some of the things that makes LJYB such a great youth sports program.
LJYB plays PONY Baseball (Protect Our Nations Youth) — a brand of baseball that we believe is safer than Little League and other youth systems because it gradually expands the size of fields to grow with the players. PONY Baseball also introduces more advanced elements of the game at a younger age such as leading off and stealing bases, pitching from a stretch, etc that allows players to learn more “complete game elements.” We believe it provides a better chance to play at a higher level when they are heading to high school.
LJYB has partnered with the Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA), a 501(c)3 non-profit whose aim is to transform the culture of youth sports to ensure that all youth athletes will have a positive, character-building experience. By offering live 2-hour interactive workshops to all of our managers and coaches, LJYB offers to certify our volunteers as a “Double-Goal Coach®” who wants to win (goal #1) but has a second, more important goal of using sports to teach life lessons. LJYB is the 1st PONY League in the region to introduce PCA to our baseball community.
LJYB has the best fields in town. Ask around — we have beautiful fields that are carefully and continuously maintained. It didn’t happen overnight and it requires an investment of hard work and financial resources. With the recent completion of the Cliffridge restroom project, LJYB will continue to work with the City to maintain a safe and family-friendly baseball complex.
Snack! Nothing cures a tough loss quite like the power of a post-game snack. Snack works for parents, too. The picnic table at the Pinto field is the scene of many hours of post-game mixers. At the end of the day, “What’s for snack?” seems more important than “What was the final score” for many kids. Snack works in Mustang and Bronco, too.
Hanging Out: Somehow baseball seems to foster the art of hanging out more than other organized sports. Kids will ride their bike to the fields just to watch their friends play games. Kids will hop around from field to field when their game is over just to see a sibling’s game or to see if there is any leftover snack. On Saturday kids will spend ten hours at the fields and will somehow enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner thanks to Bijan’s snack bar. The park adjacent to the Pinto and Mustang fields is constantly a hub of Monkey in the Middle,” Zombie Tag or Three Flies Up. The scene at LJYB is good family fun and a very friendly and social atmosphere.
Post-Season Tournaments and All Stars: LJYB believes the more kids that get exposed to post-season tournaments, the better our league will be. Some might argue that too many teams are formed and are a distraction to the regular season recreation teams, but look at the fantastic results this season for the LJYB All Star teams. More teams advanced to Region, Super Region, Zone and even the Shetland World Series thanks to a push to include as many players as possible in post-season play. There is an added benefit with community pride that you see on cars around town covered in All Star slogans about the kids.
Community: LJYB is a community of 40 teams across 5 divisions that includes 420 players and their families. Planning begins in September and play starts in February and continues through July if the teams advance in their post-season tournaments. Many of us grew up playing on the Cliffridge fields and recall those ten years of baseball as some of the best memories of growing up in La Jolla.
Team Sports: Kids learn a lot of important life lessons playing team sports. Coaching kids in youth baseball is essentially a virtual classroom and there are countless teachable moments throughout the season. Learning about teamwork and pulling together is an invaluable experience. Practicing respect for individuals and learning from mentors and role models goes a long way in developing character. Learning to honor the game with respect and integrity is a natural byproduct of LJYB.
Volunteers: LJYB has the best volunteers in the world. There are somewhere between 80-100 volunteer coaches and managers who commit their time 3-4 days per week for up to 6 months. If a family has multiple players, that may account for hundreds of trips to the Cliffridge fields each season. Team parents, scorekeepers, board of directors and league presidents all contribute countless hours of their time to improve the baseball experience for the kids.
Sponsors: We would not be able to play baseball in La Jolla without the generous support of our 60+ sponsors. Roughly 50% of the LJYB operating budget comes from the donations of our team and banner sponsors and for that we as a league are deeply grateful for the support from the many businesses and individuals.