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Cal notes: Kids learn game from JetHawks

Summer league has grown from eight teams to 12 in two years
JetHawks infielders Ryan Vilade and Taylor Snyder play a game with the Lancaster Challenger Dodgers at The Hanger. (Lancaster JetHawks)
July 1, 2019

The Lancaster JetHawks are in the third year of their JetHawks Baseball Foundation, which partners with the Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope Valley to provide a summer baseball league to area youth.The league, which is sponsored by Learn 4 Life, started in 2017 with eight teams that learned

The Lancaster JetHawks are in the third year of their JetHawks Baseball Foundation, which partners with the Boys & Girls Club of the Antelope Valley to provide a summer baseball league to area youth.
The league, which is sponsored by Learn 4 Life, started in 2017 with eight teams that learned the basics of baseball from JetHawks staff and local volunteers.

This year, some 150 children make up 12 teams, six in the 6-9 age bracket and six in the 9-12 age bracket. The success is due to a growing list of sponsors who help make the league possible.
"We just keep growing," said Jules Clyne, the JetHawks' community relations and marketing manager. "The younger ones, we just do T-ball. A lot of them, they've never even played baseball at all or know how to throw a baseball."
Before the league begins in mid-June, players from the Boys & Girls Club received a bat bag, jersey, helmet and cap to bring with them on the first day. Then, at the field, they received gloves from sponsor sPower.
Team names are based on the sponsors. For example, the California Compaction Crush and Lamar Avalanche are two of this season's entries. Teams meet once a week; twice, if necessary.
Clyne coaches the Lamar Avalanche and said it's fun to see children progress from not knowing anything about playing baseball to knowing what to do on the field by the end of the season.
"We're not just giving them the experience, we're experiencing it with them," Clyne said. "You just see all of these kids who have never played baseball or ever had the opportunity to play any sports and probably will never play again, just because they don't have those chances, learning and getting these things."
One family, in particular, has touched her heart. She had a brother and sister on her team in the league's first year and their younger sister the following season.
"My favorite part is the relationships you build," Clyne said. "My first year, I had a brother and sister on my team. They're from Palmdale and they had six kids, two parents and two grandparents all inside a one-bedroom apartment. They are one of my favorite families that I've ever met because they have absolutely nothing and they're so grateful for every little opportunity they have."
Although the brother aged out and the sisters are on different teams this year, Clyne said they still come and try to help out with her squad.
Participants play on three fields set up in the outfield at The Hangar. On the final day of the season at the end of July, they get a chance to play on the same field as the Rockies' Class A Advanced affiliate.
Players will get their names announced as they walk up to the plate and will get to hit the ball and round the bases. The following Sunday, Aug. 4, the children and their families will get free tickets and meal vouchers to the JetHawks' game against Modesto. The children will wear their jerseys and be recognized on the field.
Aug. 4 is also Root Beer Float day at The Hangar. All proceeds from selling root beer floats will go to the JetHawks Baseball Foundation. Clyne said it's a tradition that all of the league's coaches buy their players root beer floats that day.
Aside from the league, the JetHawks have invited special groups to be on the field with a couple of players after Sunday games. It's something Clyne has wanted to do since she started with the organization three years ago.
The first event was for a group called LIMBitless Possibilities, for children who are missing limbs, and it was a big success. Recently, the team also invited the Challenger Dodgers from Lancaster to play with a couple of JetHawks after the game. Challenger Baseball is for children with special needs.
"It is the most rewarding part of my job that I've ever experienced," she said.
The players who usually hang out with the special groups are eighth-ranked Rockies prospect Ryan Vilade and Taylor Snyder.
"After every game, win or lose, even frustrated, they're signing autographs, they're talking to the kids, they're taking pictures. It's sincere," Clyne said. "Ryan is always the last person out there, talking with every single person he possibly can."
Vilade helps with his father's foundation, Keeper of the Game, which also works with special needs children. The organization donated JetHawks tickets for the club's Autism Awareness Day in May.
"It was awesome," Vilade said after playing with the LIMBitless Possibilities children. "I felt like the players that came out here had more fun than the kids. That's what it's all about at the end of the day, it's about sharing the game."
Snyder's sister, Amberley, is a championship barrel racer who was paralyzed in a car accident. She found a way back on her horse and keeps competing. It's part of what's driven him to work with special needs children.
"This is fantastic," Snyder said of the LIMBitless event. "This is such a great experience for me, Ryan and [Moises Ceja]. This is a blast for us. This is something you get to use and do because of baseball and it's very special."

JetHawks pitcher Ryan Rolison is also involved in community and charity work, donating money for every strikeout he records this season to Shriners Hospitals with his K's for Kids organization.
"We have so many guys on this team that are just so involved in the community," Clyne said.
And Clyne isn't done with getting the community involved in baseball. She plans on inviting the Rosamond Challenger Baseball team to play the Challenger Dodgers at The Hangar before the season is over.

In brief

Rolling Raleigh: Modesto catcher Cal Raleigh homered from both sides of the plate on June 26. Both blasts put the Nuts ahead, although they lost in 10 innings. It was the second time the 2018 third-round pick has accomplished the feat -- he did it for Class A Short Season Everett last July 28. Raleigh leads Modesto with 13 homers and eight go-ahead dingers.
Quakes sluggers: Rancho Cucamonga hit its 100th homer of the season Friday, when Dodgers No. 7 prospect Jeter Downs smacked a solo shot in the third inning against Lancaster. Niko Hulsizer also went yard against the JetHawks, Downs homered again Saturday and Devin Mann and Donovan Casey launched long balls on Sunday, giving the Quakes 104 on the season.

Merisa Jensen is a contributor to