Youth League fires first pitch of 2019 season

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The skies were gray with a bit of a chill in the air Saturday, but nearly 500 young baseball and softball players – many struggling to fill out their new jersey – huddled around coaches waiting for instructions, or ran in circles full of nervous energy, as the Liberty Hill Youth League gathered for its Opening Day ceremonies and first games of 2019.

For board members, coaches and parents, the experience is about making sure the players have fun.

“I don’t think we’re going to produce many Major League Baseball players, but the big deal is this is a great way to learn life lessons,” said Liberty Hill Youth League President Pax Figioli. “That’s why I got into coaching and I think coaching is the essence of it. Every kid can have a good experience or bad experience depending on the coaches.”

Many of the young players are just beginning their baseball and softball journeys, or knocking off the rust since last taking the field.

“They start out knowing literally nothing and they really grow into it,” Figioli said. “The parents are always surprised when the games start how much the kids get into it. The competition is real fun and not too serious.”

With the fun comes a handful of life lessons.

“In baseball you can deal with a lot of failure and if you work hard and work through that failure you can have a lot of fun and end up growing. This is a great way to begin preparing for life.”

The league has 45 teams and 491 children participating. That means there is always a need for coaches, board members and other volunteers.

“When you coach and you volunteer you are doing something special for your own kids, but also for other kids,” he said. “It is community service and that’s a great thing.”

Involvement dropped when many long-time board members stepped away as their children got older, but the board is now up to 20 members that manage all the operations of the league, from finance and fundraising, to concessions and management of the six fields, equipment, umpires and more.

“About a year ago we had a big transition on the board and we ended up with about five volunteers,” said Figioli. “That’s how I became president, not because I had some kind of experience, but I have kids who are going to play for a while.”

Stepping up to volunteer is an easy process, said Figioli.

“People can approach any board member, because each one is really overwhelmed with the amount of things they have to do,” he said. “There’s nothing that goes on that isn’t volunteer work. There’s no requirement for the amount of work someone has to do because everything helps. If you don’t get enough people, you just do it anyway yourself. We have so many great people that spend hours dedicated to this.”

Next to getting all the work done to make the games happen, is managing the limited space available.

“Our big deal is just space because we have a hard time fitting them in for practice let alone games,” Figioli said. “Each team gets about 12 games so we shuffle a lot.”

Being involved in the busy season at practices and enjoying games is one way many families find to connect.

“It is just a big community gathering really,” he said. “You find yourself hanging out with kids who are the same age as yours. Almost all of our friends are from the kids’ sports teams.”

And the growing league means more players are choosing Liberty Hill over other youth league options.

“Keeping the kids here is another big thing,” he said. “A lot of the players are leaving for Select and going out of town, so this is a great way to just keep kids in Liberty Hill.”

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