The UT-Tyler Patriots baseball is working hard, preparing to begin their second season of existence in just over a month. But today, head coach James Vilade and several of his players weren't on the field. Instead, they spent the day at the Azleway Boys' Ranch in Smith County, answering a call for help in starting a new boys baseball program.
"Two years ago we were taxed with starting a program and I know what it's like to walk into the office and have absolutely nothing," said Vilade.
So Coach Vilade and his Patriots made sure the Azleway boys had something. They brought with them about 40 gloves, 15 bats, travel bags, and dozen of baseballs, all donated by the players, community members, and area leaders, like Diamond Pports Minstries and McDonalds. The players also took time to sign autographs and hand out hundreds of baseball cards.
"It's not just our job to win on the field and get good grades," said Vilade, "but to promote the game in the community is something that we ask our kids to do and it's an exciting experience for us."
"It means a lot, knowing that a lot of people care enough for us to give us this stuff," said Azleway Boys' Club member DeMarcus Johnson. "It means a lot to me."
"I met a young man about 20 minutes ago who's never had a baseball glove," said Vilade, "and he said sir, you bringing me a baseball glove? and I told him I was and he got a big smile, and I got a kick out of that, so whether you're getting your second glove or your third glove or whether you're getting your first glove, it's an exciting experience and I know how I felt when I was five and I got my first glove."
"I mean, that's every child's pasttime growing up," said Azleway Boys' Club Member Dakota Weir. "That's what everybody remembers. Playing baseball, playing catch with your dad, playing catch with your friends."
"Having your own glove is like having your own dog," beamed Azleway Boys' Club Member Sean James. "It's like really special."
The boys' ranch is still in need of more gear and money to upgrade their baseball field. For more information, or if you would like to help out the new Azleway baseball program, contact the Azleway Boys' Ranch at 903-566-8444.
Kevin Berns reporting.