Struggling youth softball league gets a big surprise
Rachel Esquivel emailed the 17 newsroom in need of some help. Bakersfield's South of the Tracks youth softball league has been struggling to stay alive. The community has supported the league for at-risk youth for 20 years, but this year has been different and now the league is on the brink of being disbanded.
Bakersfield, CA, April 6, 2011— The East Belle Terrace Park was built especially for the South of the tracks softball league.
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The kids there live in tough neighborhoods and are considered at-risk. The league is a safe alternative for children who may otherwise be roaming the streets.
"I love baseball and its just like a tradition in our family we all played it," said player Christian Menchaca.
"Theres a lot of at risk kids around here. When I grew up here there were no gang bangers or gunshots every night," said coordinator Rachel Esquivel.
The South of the Tracks youth softball league found a home at East Belle Terrace Park.
"When we first started, we had very few parents here. Now, the park is jammed packed with kids, all their parents, grandparents, and family. This is what I want, kids having parents to support them," said Esquivel.
For 20 years, the league operated on sponsorships but because of tough economic times, fewer sponsors have stepped up to the plate.
"This is such a big milestone for us - this is our 20th anniversary. This so important to us, it would be such a shame to tell the kids we don't have the money to operate," said Esquivel.
Two hundred seventy five kids play in the league each season. It costs $250 to sponsor a team and there are 16 teams in the league. This morning, after months of fundraising, only six teams had been sponsored.
For many kids, softball is more about family time.
"Its a tradition and we all like playing it being surrounded by family and friends and meeting new people," said a South of the Tracks player.
Without the league the alternative for many of these at-risk kids it hanging out on the streets.
"I've been playing T-ball since I was 5. I would be devastating if I don't play this year. Even if I don't, I'd go out there and practice still, waiting for next year," said Menchaca.
But now, the South of the Tracks youth softball league has some good news.
While 17 News was following up on a story with Dr. Darshan Shah of Beautologie Medical Group, he learned of this story and wanted to help.
He not only sponsored one team, but the remaining 10 teams that needed sponsoring.
Dr. Shah didn't want to go on camera, but asked 17 News to pass along his check for 2,500 dollars to sponsor the rest of the league.