Fall softball league formed with passion and dedication

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Clifton Cuevas and Donnalynn Balkcom both raise daughters who love the game of softball.

When the season ended last spring there were expectations for a fall ball league to be established so the youngsters would still have the opportunity to play the game they love.

Instead the league fell through because there weren’t enough parents signing up their children.

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Cuevas and Balkcom were left with two options when many of the players and coaches who intended to play in the fall ball league migrated to another league formed in Carriere; either do nothing and have the kids lose valuable practice time and experience, or take it upon themselves to form their own league.

The duo chose the latter, and after some phone calls and handshakes the league was formed.

Each team has 10 players, and the squads were constructed to be even talent wise.

Cuevas and Balkcom used open tryouts to see the players’ strengths and weaknesses, then teamed the players together accordingly.

Now the two teams have a couple practices each week, and a game every Thursday night at Friendship Park. 

“We have super dedicated parents, like I’m talking kids don’t miss. We made sure everybody out here knows the importance that there’s two teams with 10 kids, and they need to be here,” Cuevas said.

The teams consist mostly of seven and 8-year-olds, but Balkcom said there were a couple of 9-year-olds and 6-year-olds in the two squads.

Cuevas and Balkcom have known each other for years, and both coached in the past.

When it came time to form a league the two couldn’t think of anyone better to launch the project with.

“Her and I are good friends, in the beginning we wanted to coach together. She’s the only one I’d trust to be on the other side,” Cuevas said.

There was a registration fee that covered the expenses of getting full uniforms for both teams, reserving a field, and paying the umpire.

Other than that there weren’t any expenses for parents to pay, and Cuevas said at the age of the players it’s important for them to be involved in something.

Cuevas’ daughter, Cydnee, has a passion for softball, and if the league didn’t exist, then there wouldn’t be an opportunity to play the game she loves.

“I would say with these kids at this age it’s vital to have a ball in their hands at all times. If there’s no softball there’s nothing to do (for the players),” Cuevas said.

Not only does playing softball benefit the children physically, but Balkcom said the game helps the players off the field too.

“I think it shapes them discipline wise. At the end of the day we’re both coaches, so we’re both molding them for the future,” Balkcom.

The stands aren’t empty when the little leaguers take the field, and Cuevas said that’s another benefit of having the children take part in the league.

“I think it builds self-confidence. To have people cheer for them, they know it’s important to come out here and perform,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said he and Balkcom hit the jackpot when it comes to the parents.

“I think we got lucky that we knew parents who were serious about this. They knew the importance about a kid not showing up. The parents feel the pressure too, which is a good thing,” Cuevas said.

While there’s a possibility the league will grow and have more support next year, nothing is guaranteed.

Either way, Cuevas and Balkcom are willing to do what it takes to make sure the players get the opportunities they deserve. “I would hope there would be a concerted effort, but I have a feeling next year it’ll be down to me and Donnalynn again,” Cuevas said.