Parents, players brave the heat for a ‘joyful’ All-Star finale

Tempe South Little Leaguers warm up for the big game.  --Wrangler News photo by Alex J. Walker
Tempe South Little Leaguers warm up for the big game. –Wrangler News photo by Alex J. Walker

By Kody Acevedo

The summer temperatures may have crept their way into the Valley a while ago, but it’s finally starting to ‘feel’ like summertime in  Tempe as the Tempe South Little League recently kicked off the 2016 District 13 All-Star tournament.

It’s the complete baseball package at the Tempe Sports Complex, with the smell of hot dogs, popcorn and pretzels, the ‘Hey batter, batter’ cries coming from the surrounding fields and proud parents braving the heat in hopes of witnessing their future Paul Goldschmidt or Zack Greinke.

For TSLL President Jonathan Bodow, the tournament symbolizes the success of those hardworking volunteers that make everything possible all season long.

“Being here, this is gravy,” offered Bodow. “This is 36 kids who get to have an extra special experience, but for us running the league from February to May, that’s where the real joy is.”

Seven leagues in District 13 are represented in the All-Star tournament, with about 200 total kids suited up to play with either the 10U, 11U or 12U teams. Eleven-year-olds Cade Collum and Zane Coggins came for opening night and had to be interrupted from their pickup game of whiffle ball to talk about playing together on the 11U team.

“Yeah, it’s fun because I get to play some of the best kids in the state,” Cade said.

“I’m happy I made the All-Star team,” Zane said. “I did good through the season—kind of got sloppy at the end—but then I picked it back up again.”

Zane blamed a poor shoulder drop in his swing as the reason for his late struggles. Regardless, he stood out as one of the league’s best.

“At the end, me and Zane were both on fire.”

That type of confidence is key to a player’s success, which helps to relax all the nervous parents sitting in the stands cheering their kids on.

“I’m a veteran,” Bernadette Coggins said. “I’ve kind of seen it all with three kids.”

All three played in the All-Star tournament at one point, but what still resonates in her mind is how connected she feels to the community.

“This is my 10th year participating in the tournament,” Coggins said. “This is a tradition that kids work hard for.”

Beyond the game, Coggins noted the more important aspects are the friends and connections her sons made by playing Little League baseball.

“My older boys, who are at ASU, they are still best friends with the friends that they played with in Tempe South Little League All-Stars,” Coggins said.

The adults feel the same.

“This is our community, this is where we want to be,” Bodow said. And it means a little more for the Tempe South Little Leaguers to play host once again this summer.

It’s perhaps one of the nicer sports facilities around, which is the biggest reason the league chooses TSLL to host the event just about every year. Bodow said his league has hosted seven of the past eight seasons.

“Field availability is a big part of it. With the layout here, you can watch four games at once,” Bodow said while standing in the middle of the facility taking in the months of hard work.

“We start thinking of the All-Star planning around January, just to be ahead of the issues as everything comes up,” Bodow said.

From the chalk on the grass to the lights shining down on the field and the food in hand, this event wouldn’t be possible without the dedication both on and off the field, proving to be as much a reward for the workers and families of the players as it is for the kids who suit up and chase their baseball dreams.

“This is why we volunteer, for all the friends we make in years spent with Little League,” Bodow said.

“This is where I want to be at night time.” The District 13 All-Star tournament runs through July 6.

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