Thanks to the efforts of local members of our community who have freely given their time, this baseball program initiative which began several years ago has really taken off, now with nearly two hundred local youth participating in it from several different neighboring communities. Thanks to their hard work and time, our youth can now enjoy a fully operational baseball program with proper equipment, in order to play competitively in games against other teams from Tepic to Puerto Vallarta. I talk with one of the organizers/volunteers Matt Stooke about the program, how it first started, and what it is like now.
When did you first get involved in this program, or when did this youth baseball program first begin and why?
Two years ago, around 2017, Roger Tierney, a Sayulita resident and member of the Sayulita Jaibos Baseball Team, starting teaching some Sayulita children how to play baseball safely and properly at Manuel Rodriguez Sanchez Stadium. We are all baseball fanatics, and wanted to spread that enthusiasm to the local children. Some nights, eight children would show up, and other nights, a dozen. However, having only six gloves, one bat, and six well-used baseballs, the turnout initially was hampered by a lack of equipment.
How were you able to get new gear, and how did this impact or improve the program?
Roger mentioned his predicament to a couple of fellows well connected to the baseball communities of South Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia (where he is originally from). These two gentleman, Murray Seward and (myself) Matt Stooke, started sourcing used and new gear from their contacts. The used gear was reconditioned, cleaned and polished, and shipped to Sayulita. To date, over 1,200 pounds of gear, 1,000 baseballs, and a pitching machine have been sent to the program. The gear brought in includes gloves, cleats, bats, uniforms, helmets, and catcher’s protective equipment. WestJet and Alaska Air have been very generous in providing shipping at no cost to the program. As more equipment became available, the children started to pass the news on to their friends, and as rumors spread, we gained more members.
Are the majority of kids involved local youth, and is it boys and girls mixed?
We had up to 75 local boys and girls mixed from the ages of 6 to 15 participating. With more children playing, however, more parent support was required, so Roger started to recruit help. Candelario Salazar of ChocoBanana stepped up, and now heads organization and administration. Two retired pro players, Victor Monroy and Pedro Navarro, took on coaching and managing roles.
Does the team play formal games / matches, or is it more just for fun or something extracurricular for kids to participate in?
They do play matches and have practices. They run practices five nights a week with games on Saturdays. Our hope, however, is to develop a formal six team league program in both the minor and major little league level. Using their baseball contacts, Victor and Pedro have arranged games with teams from Tepic to Puerto Vallarta. Our local youth have learned fast, and already
compete well with these long established programs. Word of the program has also spread to other local communities, and they have started teams in both the minor and major little league level. A great percentage of our gear went to these start-up teams in Lo de Marcos, Villa Moralia, Bucerias, and San Jose. The total participation now approaches around 200 children. Word of mouth has spread to more than just the local and neighboring areas of Sayulita. In November 2018, Joe Kelly of the LA Dodgers dropped into the Stadium twice to toss the ball around with our youth and offered up some instruction. Additionally, some professional scouts have contacted us about visiting the Bay of Banderas area and hosting clinics.
That is amazing! What an excellent program you and the other volunteers have helped to curate for our community. How can Sayulita’s youth get more information if they are interested in joining, or others who may want to help in donating gear?
To grow the program beyond our current levels will require the continued and increased support of the local community. As other communities express interest in joining the program, more gear will be needed. If you wish to find more information about joining the team or helping to donate equipment, please email Matt Stooke. If you walk by the stadium and hear some noise, stop in and take a look! If the youth aren’t on the field, most likely the Sayulta Jaibos are; you will be well entertained!
*Written by: Aanya Sheikh-Taheri