Hermosa Home Run
Everyone loves a good baseball story. Lucky for us, we have one to call our own—thanks to a recent community effort that knocked one out of the park for the Hermosa Beach Little League.
- Written byStefan Slater
Generations of locals and their children, from 5-year-olds all the way up to 14, have grown up at Clark Field, the site of most of the Hermosa Beach Little League (HBLL) home games.
It’s the stuff of American tradition. A Norman Rockwell painting in action. Small beach town boys, girls and enthusiastic parents cheering each other on each spring for more than a half-century.
With so many seasons, memories and history behind a local institution, what can possibly go wrong?
In order for the HBLL to continue teaching children the basics of baseball and softball, it needs support. Lots of support: the right equipment, a well-maintained field and volunteers. It needs additional assistance from its community and a way to generate revenue to help stimulate growth and improve what resources it already has.
“It’s pretty much hand-to-mouth. It’s hard to grow your revenue,” says Trent Stamp, president of the HBLL’s board of directors. Several years back, the league was reliant on registration fees for revenue, making the process of saving money to bring about additional improvements to the league fairly slow.
But thanks to a number of parents who stepped up and encouraged local Hermosa businesses to sponsor HBLL teams—there are 47 sponsored teams this year—the league has received enough financial support to bring about a number of improvements, including a remodeled snack shack and the hiring of additional professional coaches. In turn, that increase in involvement has spurred an outpouring of support for the HBLL, cementing its importance, once again, to the families of Hermosa.
Jon Starr, the head of sponsorships and fundraising for the HBLL’s board of directors, recalls that it all started several years ago when he was going to watch his son and his friends play in the league. Jon grew up playing baseball, and he has fond memories of, as a child, watching his friends playing the game. He was introducing his now 7-year-old son to the sport when he noticed that none of the HBLL teams had local business sponsors.
For Jon, it was a no-brainer. It made sense to have local businesses involved. His pitch was simple: If a local business sponsors a team, they’ll become a part of the social network that supports the league.
He looks to a local Brazilian BBQ restaurant as an example. “The idea is that Silvio’s is a sponsor, so after a game we should all go down and have a meal there. It’s a reciprocal thing that’s happening now. It’s really fun.”
He also mentions that by encouraging local businesses and families to support the league, either in the form of sponsorship or by purchasing a commemorative brick that will be added to the HBLL’s grilling area, the community ends up creating a strong cycle of community involvement that only benefits Hermosa as a whole.
“It seems like the community rallies around it, with the kids participating and the families and local businesses being involved. It’s a really cool thing.”
Jon and several local parents put forward the idea to the HBLL, and it was ultimately effective. “We’re just thrilled that our community has rallied behind us,” says Trent. The increase in funds has been liberating for the league, and they haven’t had to raise fees for several years.
The HBLL has also been able to bring about a number of important changes, including the remodeling of the snack shack (paired with the hiring of a professional cook), construction of a new barbecue grill, hiring additional professional coaches for the league’s upper divisions, improved gear (ranging from bats to pitching machines) and uniforms, as well as softball clinics for older children.
For Trent, community support for the league is absolutely crucial, mainly because of one major factor: It’s a true-blue Hermosa organization. “It’s the only league that we have in town that’s exclusively Hermosa-based,” he says.
“I think it has a great community feel,” says Dunham Stewart, vice president of fundraising for the HBLL’s board of directors. He adds that the because of the sponsorship, the league is now able to lay out plans for future improvements, which include new batting cages and better stands and bleachers.
He also points out that Clark Field has a unique role in the South Bay. “There are not that many places around with that environ-ment—with three games going on right in a neighborhood, where people can walk from home to play or watch a game.”
Improvements to the league and to Clark Field have also brought about another set of positive change. “The community involvement has spurred more community involvement,” says Dunham.
“When the community reached out, we had to give back,” says Bill Graw, owner of El Gringo Mexican Restaurant, who sponsored one of the league’s triple-A teams. For Bill, there wasn’t a direct monetary correlation between sponsoring a team and receiving additional business. Instead it reinforced his restaurant’s position as an active facet within Hermosa’s community.
Lori Ford, who viewed sponsoring a team as a perfect way to reach out to her clientele base, also shares that attitude. “We don’t do much advertising,” she says. “It’s the perfect way to stay in touch with locals.”
Lori mentions that it’s essential to show that her shop, Gum Tree, is in touch with Hermosa. “ big population that’s big on shopping local.” By supporting the league, the community takes notice and, in turn, supports her and her business.
Sponsorship and the business of the league aside, the additional outpouring of community involvement has helped the HBLL continue to thrive, which has a positive impact on the children of Hermosa.
Darin DeRenzis, who’s both a sponsor and volunteer coach (both of his children also play in the league), notes that the league helps children develop both patience and an appreciation for teamwork. “In other sports, the kids can take over, but they have to work together here,” he says.
Scott Pressey, a former coach whose son is still part of the league, agrees with that point. “Baseball brings a sense of community, a sense of structure and a sense of fun. It gives them a chance to play and socialize and have fun, and I saw a lot of parents that interacted that way too.”
Scott points out that by encouraging parents to be involved with the league, whether through volunteering, sponsoring or simply attending games, those parents end up becoming good role models. “The parents are the strongest example in a life. It’s a good reinforcement all around.”
Darin, like many local parents, takes pride in being involved with the league—not only because of its benefits for local children and the general community but also because Little League is something that’s intrinsically significant to a small town like Hermosa.
Little League baseball is a part of our cultural identity as Americans, thus making it a key part of our South Bay culture as well. “Little League is as Americana as it gets,” says Darin. “Going to the opening day, you could be in Iowa or Georgia. It feels so small-town, and I love it.”