New officials turn baseball league into money-maker

SAN BENITO — The city’s baseball league is ready for another winning season.

Registration begins in January for a spot on a San Benito Youth Baseball League team.

But league organizers aren’t just looking to 2017. They’re thinking even further ahead.

Omar Gonzalez, the league’s president, has big plans for the league.

“We want to grow it but within our control and within our grasp,” Gonzalez said after meeting with city commissioners Tuesday.

During the upcoming season, he hopes to boost the league’s number of players from 543 to about 700.

“The biggest growth I expect to see in two to three years is with the 3-4 and 5-6-year-olds,” Gonzalez said. “When we grow those divisions, we’ll know we have a good crop of players. The experienced kids will invite (others) when they have a good, positive experience.”

Gonzalez, who took over as president last year, and a slate of new officials have turned the league into a winner, Zeke Luna, chairman of the city’s park’s board, said.

Luna said players’ numbers had dropped as low as 200 before the league’s new officials took over last year.

“They’ve done a heck of a job. That’s what it takes to run a league,” Luna said. “This group of officers are very well organized and have tremendous amount of experience in running ball parks and ball games.”

Gonzalez said he’s trying to run the league like a business.

“It’s come a long way,” he said.

With 12 volunteers, he’s turned the league into a money-maker.

“We, as a team, have come together and we have a vision to do better things,” Gonzalez said of the group of volunteers.

Last season, the league generated $76,000 in revenue.

After expenses, it turned an $18,000 profit.

Last year, the league invested $6,700 to help improve San Benito Municipal Park, installing canopies over bleachers, repairing the park’s golf cart and buying field striping equipment.

During the upcoming season, the city’s counting on the league to use its profits to help maintain the ball park, Luna said.

Gonzalez said the league plans to help improve the field.

“It’s operating capital we’re going to use to put back into the facility, the kids and program,” Gonzalez said. “We have to be conscience of how and where we spend money and be good stewards.”

On Tuesday, commissioners were so impressed with the league’s finances they didn’t request the league give the city 10 percent of its revenues to maintain the ball park.

“There’s accountability,” City Commissioner Esteban Rodriguez said. “They turn in (financial) reports. They’ve done a great job. They’re doing the right thing for our kids. Compared to what was there before, it’s 100 percent better.”

Gonzalez hopes for an even better season next year.

With 39 teams last season, he hopes to expand the league to about 60 teams.

“It’s a challenge,” he said.