Melendez: Applauding volunteer efforts


This column appeared on page C3 of the Star-News sports section on Friday, April 10

Next time you head out to a tournament of some kind, think about the time and effort that goes into putting it all together.

It’s spring break for most schools and that means baseball teams – or teams in other sports for that matter – are probably playing in a tournament of some kind.

We get the leisure of waltzing to the field or court to watch little Johnnie play at a scheduled time. We sip our favorite drink, chow down a hot dog (or three) and cozy up in the stands with our favorite fleece blanket and weather whatever conditions for the remainder of the game.

When the game’s over, we pack our bags, say our goodbyes and head to the comfort of our homes.

But think about the countless hours that go into putting it all together by an army of working ants in the form of coaches, parents, players and volunteers whose aim is to bring you the best amenities.

Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they probably don’t, but certainly nobody can fault their best of intentions.

Usually the person handling the gate money or coordinating parking is the first to hear of a complaint. It’s our natural instinct to go off on the first person we see who might look official enough to take our heat, failing to realize we went Bobby Knight-style on grandpa who simply wanted to help his grandson’s team by volunteering his precious free time.

Most tournament directors will tell you it’s rare when they heap praise for running a smooth event, perhaps the saying, “No news is good news” applies here.

Still, it’s nice to let them know their hard work does not always go unappreciated.

The Star-News has covered plenty of tournaments this school year, many of which ran smoothly.

But we bring you the Apache Invitational, a blueprint that mirrors the effort of tournament organizers across the San Gabriel Valley.


Arcadia baseball coach Nick Lemus is in his fourth season helping run the Apache Invitational.

Because he wears the uniform and the tournament is played at Arcadia High, Lemus potentially could hear about all that went wrong, or all that went right. More often a coach in Lemus’ position will get the former, but fortunately that hasn’t been the case.

“I haven’t heard too many bad things,” Lemus said. “It’s a nice atmosphere and it’s a nice field to play on. Things run fairly smooth. It’s just a lot of work.

“The players come out and they work their butt off, too. It’s a total team effort to put out a good product but it’s a hell of a lot of work.”

The eight-team tournament started last Saturday and concluded Wednesday night when Glendora beat Arcadia, 3-0, to win the tournament for the second straight time.

Putting brackets together and fielding requests to play in the tournament begin as early as a year in advance. The hard part is being on site and managing every little detail, from preparing the baseball field after each game played to making sure someone can retrieve foul balls that get hit into the parking lot, the track and anywhere else far and between.

John Valerio is the tournament director and the team’s public address announcer.

When he wasn’t announcing names during each inning, Valerio’s got his iPod handy to play music in between innings, making sure foul balls get retrieved, making sure the umpires are taken care of as well as media in attendance. He takes care of the winners’ awards, too. An engraved wood bat for the MVP, a slick baseball for the tournament’s top pitcher plus gym bags for the team. Valerio also provides witty, insightful commentary in the announcer’s booth that’s entertaining, to say the least.

Larry Larson, president of the Diamond Club, helps barbecue and manage the concession stand. I’ll argue if you can find a better cheeseburger or hot dog at a high school baseball game, or, yes, even at Dodger Stadium.

Here comes the hate mail.

Lyn and Craig Tom also help as does Lemus’ assistant, Gabe Hyatt.

“Honestly I don’t think about our game until the umpire says play ball,” Lemus said. “The assistants do a good job of getting the team ready because I don’t get the time with the guys like I’d normally like to.

“There’s a lot of stuff behind the scenes people don’t realize gets done.”

It’s not unusual for Lemus to spend at least 40 hours during this tournament.

When it rained as it did Tuesday night, Lemus and his crew had to arrive at Arcadia High earlier than usual the next day to make proper preparations.

Waking up at 7 a.m. and getting home at midnight – in Claremont, mind you – doesn’t sound appealing, but that’s a regular day’s work for Lemus this time a year.

Remember, it’s his spring break, too.

Some of you might be heading out to the Arcadia Invitational later today and Saturday as well.

It’s the most prestigious track tournament in the nation headed by Rich Gonzalez and Arcadia track coach Chris Schultz along with a committee that met at least once a month throughout the year.

If you see a tournament official manning his or her post, be a team player and thank them for their time and effort.

They won’t expect it, but you can bet they’ll appreciate it.
(626) 578-6300, Ext. 4485

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