American Legion gears up for the season
|A section of the American Legion fence was damaged and is in need of more repairs than Cisneros was able to make. The score board also needs attention.|
"Put me in coach," will be echoing across the American Legion field in Helper for the next three days as tryouts begin for this season's team. With Coach Jeff Cisneros back at the helm for his 12th year, the team will continue a tradition that started over 30 years ago. Even though legion ball is declining on the state level it is still a strong force here in Carbon County. Under the tenure of Coach Cisneros the team has been one of the top two teams in the state three out of the last five years.
Tryouts for the squad will be Tuesday, May 22, starting at 6 p.m. at the field in Helper. Players this year must have been born in 1988 or after to qualify. For urban teams, the majority of players are post high school and first year college freshmen. In Carbon County there is room for underclassmen as well. Some players make the team as young as 15. Even though the team is one of the youngest in the state, they hold their ground with teams made up of almost entirely 18 and 19 year old players.
Cisneros remembers when he played 18 years ago, there were 50 teams state wide, now that number has dropped to 22 with Bountiful being the latest casualty. In the Salt Lake valley there are just too many leagues catering to the same age group. But still the elite players head to find a legion team when they want to get noticed.
Because legion ball is not affiliated with the school system, they rely on public support to help defray the cost to play. It cost approximately $500 per player each season. These costs include the uniforms, hotel stays, gas, league fees etc. One of the many duties for Cisneros is fund raising. He spearheads a golf tournament and other fund raisers. He also requires each of the players to assist in the cost. The more they can get donations the less each has to pay. Each player must come up with $300 in the form of their own funds or donation.
Cisneros knows that this is a big chunk of change for some of the kids and he does whatever it takes to make sure money is not a reason for someone to stay off the team. But the reality is that money is needed to keep the team afloat. League fees alone run over $1100 a year. Each team must pay for the umpires used for each game. They make $60 a game and there are two at each game. He is grateful for all the community support that the team receives.
The grounds crew is made up of Cisneros and his coaches. He had just completed a temporary fence repair that the wind had damaged so the Babe Ruth teams could play. Helper City does mow and water the field, but the field needs a lot of TLC to keep it in playing shape. As the Helper pool draws closer to completion, the stone foundation surrounding the field has crumbled a bit. The perimeter fence is in need of replacement with something more substantial. Cisneros would like to turn to Helper or CIB funding for help with some of the brick and mortar needs.
As far as this years team is looking, he is expecting a few returning players. Jordan Moynier, Brett Johnson and Brady Wilde are a few of the Carbon players expected to come out. Aaron Sandoval is predicted to play after a season at Copper Hills. Also Trevor Thompson, who red-shirted for BYU this season, is also anticipated to suit up.
The cost to see these talented ball players is zero. Free admission is one of the bonuses to the public to see some good ball games this summer. The team begins play on June 11th at Woods Cross. The home opener is Wednesday June 13th against Highland. First pitch will be thrown at 7:00 p.m at the legion field in Helper.