Juliet Rodriguez is a busy stay-at-home mother, tending to four sons, two of which are twins. They're active and love sports like other kids in Lehigh so Rodriguez, with her husband's support and involvement, is forming the Lehigh Acres Diamonds Youth Baseball Organization. She is asking for contributions from a list of people so families can participate without it being a financial burden.
"We really want to promote and develop youth baseball in South Florida, and provide the opportunity for young baseball players to compete at higher levels," Rodriguez said. The children who want to join up can come from Fort Myers, Cape Coral or any other area, too.
"The group we will be forming will travel together and play in a competitive environment," she said.
Juliet Rodriguez with her boys, Manny, 2; twins Johnny and Joel, 8, and Michael, 12. Not in photo is Juliet’s husband, Michael, who is the president of the LA Diamonds Youth Baseball Organization.
Traveling baseball for young players is one of the newest forms of sports activities. Teams in Fort Myers and other nearby areas are active in such traveling baseball sporting events and teams play as far north as Sarasota and northward to Jacksonville and Orlando.
Two weeks ago, Rodriguez sent out hundreds of emails not only to area business groups, but to nationally known enterprises, asking for financial help to start the Lehigh Acres Diamonds program. Within days, she received a $500 check from Applebee's restaurants.
"They really want to support us and we're so grateful for their gift," she said. "There are many costs associated with running and developing a youth travel baseball team."
"When you put in the cost of the equipment, the field rental costs, uniforms, league fees, insurance tournament fees, travel, outside instruction from professional instructors not to mention the cost of travel, lodging and other costs while participating in games and tournaments at a local, regional, state and national level, it can financially add up," Rodriguez said.
"Ronald Long, the corporate leader of Applebee's in Fort Wayne, Ind., believes in what we are doing and I think many others, locally and from other areas, will help up too. We need the funds to get going and we want the kids to have fun without it costing their parents a fortune," she said.
Rodriguez believes so much in her team that she stays up to 3 and 4 a.m. on the computer, faxing and sending emails asking for help.
She even ordered a sports outfit for Father's Day for her husband. It included a shirt, shorts and cap, and I sent him a nice Father's Day card with the front covered with a photograph of baseballs," she laughed.
Her husband works in the lumber construction business, but he and his wife are very supportive of their children's sporting programs and she admits it can be hard to take a child to this rehearsal and another to a game all during the week, but it is good for the kids, she says.
Husband Michael Rodriguez is president and coach of the LA Diamonds.
"We probably are going to use LA Diamonds for short," she said.
She wants to launch the Lehigh Acres Diamonds sometime in early July. She is also looking for volunteer coaches and urges those who want to help out to contact her.
She's talking about kids playing ball from 9 to 12 and their classes are referred to as "9U, 10U, 11U, and 12U."
"We can play year-round," she said "That is after we get started with our teams.
"My goal is for next year to have Lehigh travel baseball kids in Disney Land on ESPN's World of Sports as winners," she said.
While no date is official yet for the tryouts for the Lehigh Acres diamonds, Rodriguez says it will be after the Fourth of July.
"And we realize there will be some hot weather. We will work around it and make sure the kids are given plenty of water and we won't let them play too hard in the hot heat," she said.
Her own boys are excited about traveling baseball. Her boys are Manny, 2, who has a few years to wait; Johnny and Joel, eight-year-old twins and Michael, who is 12.
The team will play in tourneys throughout Florida and other states.
"The team will be working hard to reach their goals, but need your contributions to make this a reality. We graciously request your support to fulfill our 'field of dreams.'
"Your generous tax deductible gifts will go a long way toward assisting the team," she and her husband write in her emails to prospective donors.
She says all the money goes for funding for the kids.
"Nobody in our organization will receive any salary," she said.
She calls donations a "Grand Slam Gift," and promises that the company name and logo on the teams travel banner, team website and team media. An appreciation plaque with team photo will be given at the end of the season.
"And there is a priceless feeling of helping a youth baseball team," she said.
She suggests donations from $100 to $1,500, but any amount is appreciated. You can make donations through the following ways:
- Paypal: email@example.com.
- Team website: www.leaguelineup.com/ladiamondsbaseball.
- Fundraiser website: www.gofundme.com/9vczj4.
"We are also taking financial gifts at any Wells Fargo Bank. People can deposit to the account number of 6435010993. Checks can be made payable to LA Diamonds Baseball and mailed to 512 Layton Place, Lehigh Acres, FL 33936.
"This is just going to be a great thing for the kids of our community and others who want to join us. We are very excited about this,"?she said. "And those who want to play can contact us too. More on that will come."