Remaining organizers knew Grace would be nearly impossible to replace, but now that registration is quickly approaching in early February, it has become apparent that drastic measures are needed to keep the league afloat.
A post on the league’s Facebook page was dire indeed.
“We need board members, coaches and other volunteers,” it said. “If we cannot get the needed volunteers for these positions, the league will be forced to dissolve. The recent loss of Paul Grace has hurt the baseball community, and the league.”
The league is expected to serve some 400 youth players from kindergarten through high school on more than 30 teams this season, said Gary Flores, one of the league’s vice presidents.
“We have been trying to hold things together,” he said of fellow office holders John Sandoval and Jo Ann Mares. “We have a lot of kids, but there’s a lack of volunteers that’s hurting the league.”
Despite the Facebook post, Flores said the league is committed to go forth this season, but its future beyond that is very much in doubt.
“We need people to help out on the administrative end,” he said. “Help with organizing teams. We usually get enough coaches, but we can always use more. We need help finding sponsors. We need people to help order uniforms, going out and getting stuff done.”
Grace, 64, was not just the glue that held the league together, Flores said. He was the bricks and mortar that formed the very foundation of the league. A lawyer by trade, his passion was baseball and the league in which his own sons grew up. Grace’s connection with the league was not measured in years, but in decades.
He worked tirelessly on the administrative end, Flores said. But he also was constantly around to fill in where needed in other roles, as well. It was not unusual to see Grace step in as an umpire or running the concession stand or doing field maintenance.
In fact, there were countless things he did that essentially went unnoticed until Grace was no longer there to do it, Flores said.
“He was such an asset,” he said. “Anybody who gives all his time, when you’re missing him, we won’t even know how much until we start doing registration. We don’t even know how much it’s going to hurt.”
The hope is that a call for volunteers will embolden a new generation of leaders to help fill the chasm left by Grace’s passing.
“People might want to come out and volunteer in honor of Paul,” Flores said. “It could go either way. We could have lot of people come out in honor of Paul, or we might not have enough volunteers to make it all happen.”
People interested in helping out should contact Flores at 204-4149.
“We need administration folks, coaches, volunteers in any capacity,” he said. “Working on the field just helping Santa Fe Little League move forward. We don’t turn down any free help.”
As for replacing Grace, “We don’t know,” Flores said. “Once we get enough volunteers, we’ll hold a mini-election and see who wants to step and be in the capacity. What we want is to get as many kids who want to play ball as we can, get them going and move forward from there.”