Los Ninos Little League president Sammy Rodriguez saw a young girl with a disappointed look on her face. She wasn’t interested in being at the Tucson-based league registration desk, and she certainly had no interest in competing in the next season of youth baseball.
Hoping to change her mind, Rodriguez went to a back room to find a D-backs cap – a keepsake to try and cheer the girl up.
“I grabbed one for him and said, ‘It’s yours. This is what you’re going to wear when you play, ”Rodriguez recalled. “It brightened her up and once the regular season was over and the fall ball rolled in, she asked her mom when she was going to play next.”
These are memories like those that have marked Rodriguez, who oversees one of Arizona’s 121 leagues participating in the D-backs’ Give Back Youth Jersey program this year. In partnership with Fry’s Food Stores, Tide and Steward Health, the initiative has provided youth baseball and softball leagues like Los Ninos Little League with high-quality D-backs branded caps and jerseys since the program began in 2014.
Rodriguez’s Little League, in particular, has grown with the help of D-backs. Los Ninos was in danger of going bankrupt a few years ago, before Rodriguez took over as head of the new board of directors with “starting from scratch” members, in terms of equipment acquisition and children’s membership. to their league.
Through D-backs’ Give Back Youth Jersey program, free uniforms help organizations like Los Ninos cut costs and reallocate funds to other areas, including paying chalk for foul lines and donating lower registration fees to encourage more children to register.
“At first it was scary. I wondered what I was getting myself into, knowing what was presented to me and what we had to work with, ”Rodriguez said. “But once people sign up, it fills your heart, because there is so much potential and so many kids who want to play, and we give them the opportunity.”
Rodriguez first had to gain the trust of parents across the community. With some families already traveling to play in other smaller leagues in the area, Rodriguez had to prove to them that the program was viable, and that is exactly what he did.
As of 2018-19, registrations have doubled and over 100 parent volunteer forms have been completed for 10 teams, meaning there are plenty of potential coaches and managers. The growth spurt is not just due to Rodriguez, but his board of volunteers, including Brandi Rodriguez, Cassandra Rodriguez, Scott Garcia, Francisco Rodriguez, Joel Garcia and Mayra Garcia. Together, they continue to help their little league grow, as well as the Las Ninas Youth Softball League of Tucson, which is also a member of the D-backs Give Back Youth Jersey program.
Ultimately, the overall increase in attendance has progressed over the past two years, in Tucson and beyond. From hardly having a league to having a thriving participation, the D-backs have been able to play a small part in a team effort that will impact 65,000 Little League players and coaches across Arizona this year. .
“Baseball is important in Tucson. I appreciate all the parent involvement that we get and we are really supported by the D-backs, ”Rodriguez said. “They’re a great organization and they don’t just help our league, but they help all the leagues in Arizona. The things they do are phenomenal.