A lifetime of family and baseball in Utah's Castle Country
To say that Jeff Cisneros and his family love baseball may be a bit of an understatement, to say that they live baseball would not be. Cisneros will retire this summer, after an impressive 20 year ride with the Helper's American Legion squad. Next year, he might even take a vacation.
"Our lives have been lived at the ball field and I honestly couldn't be happier for it," said Jeff's wife Valerie Cisneros, who loved baseball even before meeting Jeff. "Our family relationships were developed there."
Jeff's sporting career took off as he became one of the only athletes in Emery High School history to achieve All-State honors in baseball, football and basketball. His dedication led to a collegiate baseball career at the College of Eastern Utah, where Cisneros played shortstop and pitched. He assisted with Helper Legion and Carbon High Baseball for two seasons before leaving to finish his education in the Salt Lake Valley.
While Jeff's playing career was impressive in multiple respects, it was as a coach that he proved to be in a league with the legends of Castle Country baseball. Before taking the reigns in 1994-95, Jeff had the opportunity to coach with the likes of Tony Pinedo and John Gianini.
As head coach over the past 18 years, Helper has never missed the Salt Lake Valley League playoffs, winning a state baseball title in 2002.
"It takes a lot," continued Valerie, explaining Jeff's commitment to the league. "He starts in January and the season never ends until August."
Cisneros served as league vice president for four years and will conclude his legion coaching career simultaneously with the playing career of his son, Dakota.
"You know, Jeff didn't start with legion ball because of Dakota, but Dakota gave him a reason to stay," said Valerie. "Their relationship is so strong because of what they have shared on the field."
Dakota has excelled much as Jeff did. After four years at Carbon High and with Helper Legion, he is headed to USU Eastern on an athletic and academic scholarship. He also happens to play shortstop and pitcher.
While Cisneros has had the opportunity to coach many of the area's best players, the relationships he has fostered with a great many of them go far beyond what can be learned on the diamond.
"We have had so many kids knock on our door at midnight," said Valerie. "Kids having problems with their girlfriend or at school, he has been there for them. He taught them so much more than baseball. The letters we get as they get older, it makes me choke up."
According to Jeff's wife, the friendships that have blossomed between them and the players and families Jeff has coached have filled their lives over the past two decades, providing a unique and special experience.
Valerie has her sights set on camping and "normal" summer activities next year, but with Jeff's daughter Delaney, 13, who knows. The younger Cisneros plays softball, volleyball and basketball. Not surprisingly, Jeff has already coached the traveling team she plays with to two different league titles.
"Even my daughter says she is going to miss that legion field," said Valerie. "Our kids have been there in strollers and baby shoes. It's what we know. And I wouldn't trade it for the world."