Little League Tournament impossible without local volunteers

Mountain View's Jackson Bush pitching to North Scottsdale's Easton Lay during games played Monday, June 29 at Scottsdale Ranch Park. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Mountain View’s Jackson Bush pitching to North Scottsdale’s Easton Lay during games played Monday, June 29 at Scottsdale Ranch Park. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

From the first pitch on June 28 to the final out on July 9, the Arizona District 6 Little League Tournament operated like a well-oiled machine.

Arcadia was crowned champion around 10 p.m. July 9 and the Scottsdale-area All-Star tournament was over. The tournament would not have been possible without the many volunteers who assisted Mountain View Little League with hosting the tournament.

“They do a great job for us every year,” North Scottsdale manager Paul Klotnia said of Mountain View. “It’s a great facility and the staff that works the event is fantastic. We play a lot of club baseball and this is the top tournament.”

District 6 Administrator Irwin Altman says Mountain View has hosted the Majors (11-and-12-year olds) Tournament for about 10 years in a row thanks to its central location and quality fields.

Mr. Altman says other teams from the district help by providing volunteers, a necessity in Little League Baseball.

“Sometimes people get the misconception that there are paid people in Little League,” he said. “There is no person in Little League Baseball in the state of Arizona that is paid. Every single person you see in Arizona Little League is a volunteer. None of this would happen without the volunteers.”

Kimberly Borges is the vice president of Mountain View and has been involved for 17 years. She served as president for five of those years and continued to volunteer during four years when she did not have a child participating.

She says the reason she continues to volunteer her time is her love for Little League.

“I just really enjoy doing everything that I do,” Ms. Borges said. “I enjoy the community and I love the family. The people in my baseball family are some of the best friends that I have.”

Ms. Borges says the volunteer force made this year’s tournament a success.

“This tournament specifically has been one of the better tournaments,” she said. “We’ve been very plentiful in volunteers and everyone is happy. It just seems to be a really, really positive environment. It’s usually pretty smooth; some years are harder than others when we’re struggling to get volunteers. This year has really been pretty fluid.”

Ms. Borges says about 80 percent of the tournament’s Mountain View volunteers were alumni of the program.

“I think that it speaks to how much emphasis Mountain View places on community,” she said. “We don’t have ulterior motives and we focus on making the best environment for the kids. We focus on having the best managers and coaches in the right positions that are going to make the best experience for the kids.”

Adjusting to a new role

One of the people who continues to help without any children in the Little League system is Justin James, the president of Mountain View. He says his sons have already played through Little League, but his love of baseball keeps him coming back.

Mr. James is also an umpire and he says his playing and parenting have made for a rewarding experience behind the plate.

“For me, it’s been one of the most fulfilling parts of it,” he said. “Getting to be on both sides of the fence, both sides of the plate—it’s been interesting. You’ve been a kid growing up playing baseball, to a parent, to a coach, and now being between the lines. It’s been gratifying, if nothing else.”

Mountain View's Danny Eden watching the pitcher during an at-bat at the District 6 Arizona Little League Tournament in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Mountain View’s Danny Eden watching the pitcher during an at-bat at the District 6 Arizona Little League Tournament in Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Justin Maskulinski)

Mr. James is in his first year as the president of Mountain View and he says Ms. Borges’ experience has helped him adjust to the new role.

“It’s been tremendous,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without her. She’s been a great guide all along and she’s been a great sounding board…She was a really good sounding board to kind of keep me in check.”

Among the changes Mr. James proposed were changing team names from traditional MLB names to Southwest-style names like coyotes and roadrunners. He says Ms. Borges’ advice helped him when he made decisions or proposed ideas.

Love of the game

Mr. Altman pointed out that at the end of the Little League year, only one team in the world is named champion in Williamsport, Pa., so there are many things more important than winning.

“The key is for them to have a lot of fun and to learn some baseball along the way,” Mr. Altman said. “Those are the key elements, I think, that we see.”

After 11 years, Mr. Altman says the relationships keep him coming back to Little League.

“It’s a lot of fun, you get to meet a lot of nice people along the way,” Mr. Altman said. “You always hear about the stories about the difficult parents and certainly we have to deal with those people. What really keeps you going is the fact that you’re making new relationships and meeting good people.”

Mr. Altman says the common interest in baseball is what allows Little League to succeed.

“They all share a passion,” Mr. Altman said. “I always try to point that out to people. Even when they’re arguing about Little League Baseball, the reason they’re arguing is because they’re passionate. If they didn’t care, no one would be arguing. We may not agree on something but we are both passionate about the product of Little League baseball.”

(By Justin Maskulinski)

(By Justin Maskulinski)

Scottsdale Independent Sports Correspondent Justin Maskulinski can be contacted at jmaskulinski@newszap.com. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/Maskulinski.

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