During the week leading up to the Louisiana 15-year-old Babe Ruth League State Tournament the Ascension Angels All-stars were laying down chalk lines and mowing grass at the St. Amant Recreational Park.
For the second time in as many weeks, the Ascension Baseball Committee hosted the Babe Ruth League tournaments, but this time around, coach Ronnie Holland and his team took personal charge to defend the home turf they poured sweat and work in to.
“They really want to work hard because they don’t want to go down on their home turf,” Holland said prior to his team’s first game. “This is their field and they want to win the whole thing.”
Unfortunately, Ascension fell short of its goal, losing 13-10 to New Iberia in the championship game, but as far as Holland is concerned, winning isn’t the only thing.
“When you have a 22-year-old guy that played ball out here when he was a kid and he offers to come out here and work these fields or work with these players, that’s what we do it for,” Holland said. “As a parent, as a coach, you want to see these kids come back to this league and help the younger kids get to play.”
Ascension Baseball Committee President Dean Meaut and his staff worked diligently to provide a haven for local athletes who opt to play in recreational leagues as opposed to a more competitive travel or high school league.
ABC provides games and leagues for nearly 1,500 athletes from tee ball to 18-year-olds, and the program continues to grow as fast as the league can keep up.
“Baseball is always growing in Ascension,” Meaut said. “We don’t turn anyone down. If you sign up, you play throughout the regular season.”
Meaut said one of the main factors in the recent expansion of the league has been the move to affiliate with Babe Ruth League two years ago, and with it, a movement to bring the fields and games up to par with other area leagues.
This year alone, ABC has worked with the parish to improve field quality through expansion of baselines and dimensions as well as new dirt and pitching mounds.
“When parents started learning that we were playing real baseball, our league started growing,” said Holland, who also acts as a league representative for the 15-year-olds.
Meaut said the league is supporting an upcoming tax vote proposal that would bring increased funding to local athletic facilities, which would possibly include funding for the ABC parks around Ascension Parish. The vote will be a part of the November ballot.
The growing nature of the program hasn’t gone unnoticed, either. Babe Ruth League Louisiana State Commissioner Mike Markins was one of the fans taking in the state tournament last week and praised ABC for it’s consecutive weekends of successful tournaments.
Markins specifically noted that it’s uncommon for a new league member to have the opportunity to host state tournaments, but Meaut and his program have proven worthy of the exception. Markins said the process typically takes three to five years involvement with the league for a program to host a state tournament.
“(ABC) has showed us that they want to play an organized league and they have fantastic facilities,” Markins said. “These Ascension people have (earned a state tournament) in two years and that goes to show you what they have over here. We look forward to a long relationship with them.”
Meaut said Ascension has already received a bid to host several district tournaments next summer and plans are under way for the league to host the 9-year-old regional tournament as well, which will feature teams from neighboring states making their way to Southeast Louisiana.