Riley honored for contributions to youth baseball, softball


By Scott Akanewich

When Mike Riley is heading home after another day of work, he’s always encouraged when he happens past a particular sight.

“When I drive near one of the baseball fields and see the lights on, it makes me feel good,” said Riley.

For his decade-long service to Liberty Hill Youth League, Riley was honored with the first Volunteer of the Year award during opening ceremonies at Lions Foundation Park on March 7.

According to LHYL Marketing Director April Thomas, Riley himself was the inspiration for creating the new award.

“We wanted Mike to be the first recipient,” said Thomas. “I’ve never known someone who loves the game of baseball so much and I’m always floored by his generosity.”

Riley first got involved with LYHL when he and his family moved to Liberty Hill in 2010, with two sons – Cade and Carson – who played in the league and felt it was important to be involved with something he holds so dear.

“I love how youth baseball brings the entire community together,” he said. “When I look back now, I realize everything started here.”

Thomas said whenever someone has been in need of anything having to do with participation, Riley has always been one of the first to answer the call.

“Whenever I post something – whether it’s somebody needing a glove, for example, he’s always right there asking how he can help,” she said. “I’ve always been so moved by Mike’s generosity.”

Riley said he wants to help keep the playing field level as far as not letting money get in the way of someone’s ability to play.

“I never want financial burdens to get in the way of someone being able to participate,” he said. “Expenses should never be a reason for a kid not to play.”

After receiving the award, countless people came up to Riley, offering congratulations, which he said is validation of his efforts.

“I’ll always cherish all the friendships I’ve made through the game,” he said. “Along with all the friendships the kids make at that age which last a lifetime.”

The fact the LHYL continues to grow year after year is encouraging to Riley as the baton is passed from one group to another.

“It’s a generational thing – especially in a small town,” he said. “It just keeps going on and on and does my heart good to see all these kids out here.”

Through it all, Riley has been one to not trumpet all his good deeds and has never sought the spotlight.

“I tried to tell April (Thomas) I didn’t want to come out here on the field in front of all these people,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll make this an annual award and people will be inspired.”