Batter Up! La Jolla Youth Baseball returns to Cliffridge fields for 2015 season

There is something special about the smell of freshly cut grass at the beginning of baseball season in La Jolla. Since 1952, thousands of families have enjoyed the experience and the move to Cliffridge Park in 1964 makes these fields home for generations of ballplayers.

Putting all the pieces in place for La Jolla Youth Baseball’s (LJYB) Opening Day Feb. 28, 2015 requires the support and leadership of dozens of people — and none of it could happen without hundreds of parents who love baseball almost as much as their kids.

Conservatively, LJYB parents make 4,000 trips to the fields and that doesn’t count the second car that arrives for another parent to watch a game or attend that extra Sunday practice that coach tacked on to the schedule. LJYB thanks not only the parents for choosing baseball as their primary spring sport, but the schools that helped by posting registration flyers and sending out announcements in their e-newsletters to bring together this community of nearly 400 young athletes.

Here’s what took place in January 2015:

• Jan. 13: The board of directors met to finalize and approve well-vetted slates of managers for Shetland (9), Pinto (10), Mustang (8), Bronco (5) and Pony (3). Every manager must complete a background check and attend at least one Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) workshop, which includes certification.

• Jan. 17: Annual Clean-Up Day attended by board members, coaches and LJYB alumni working on community service hours. The group painted, cleared, hauled trash away and hung new nets in batting cages to give a fresh start to the season.

• Jan. 18: Pre-Season Clinic hosted by UCSD Tritons Baseball Team was a tremendous success. The Div II Tritons’ head coach Eric Newman pulled together four of his coaches and about 20 players for three sessions designed specifically for Pinto, Mustang, and Bronco/Pony division players.

More than 100 LJYB players attended the clinics, making this, by far, the most successful player development event that anyone can remember. They also hosted a two-hour Coaches Clinic that proved invaluable for those able to attend. LJYB sends big thanks to Coach Newman and the Tritons’ baseball organization for this opportunity to visit their newly upgraded ballpark.

• Jan. 20: For the fourth year, LJYB hosted a PCA Workshop for coaches and volunteers. CIF Hall of Fame Coach and leading PCA instructor Jim Perry returned to the Parker Auditorium at La Jolla High to share his wit and wisdom about how to coach kids — and sometimes things not to do. Dozens of parent volunteers attended and each came away with several new ideas about how best to handle situations in what is an open classroom that includes baseball.

Participants receive PCA certification for the “Double Goal Coach: Coaching for Winning & Life Lessons” workshop. For the first time, LJYB will be offering a second workshop in late February that is open to all LJYB parents and coaches who were unable to attend the Jan. 20 event.

• Jan. 24: Assessments took place for Pinto, Mustang, and Bronco Divisions. This allows every manager in each division an opportunity to meet and observe all of the players in the aspects of fielding, throwing, catching, running, hitting and pitching (Mustang and Bronco). It is a thorough and objective way to prepare for the formation of teams (draft) the following week. Each league president and a board member (observer) presided over a draft for each league that requires a great deal of preparation and a few hours of discussion and selection of players. The secret to success for LJYB is balance and parity among teams.

• Jan. 31: Pony division assessment and draft. Many players have been together for 9-10 years and the three managers collectively have more than 40 years of LJYB coaching experience. With the removal of regional boundaries in Pony baseball, new faces joined the Pony ranks this season and helped grow the division with a third team.

For February 2015, so far:

• Feb. 2: Practices started for most divisions. Shetland registration remains open all season (ages 4-6) and kids are encouraged to talk it up in their preschool and kindergarten classrooms.

• Feb. 28: Opening Day with a ceremony at noon at the Bronco Field, 8311 Cliffridge Ave.

— WEBSITE: For more information about La Jolla Youth Baseball , visit ljyb.org

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