SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) A local little league team is preparing to go to Hawaii to represent Utah in the Southwest Regional Tournament. And one of those making sure they get there is Officer Jerry Valdez. We find out why in this week’s Behind the Badge report.
When we first met Officer Jerry Valdez two and a half years ago, he talked about growing up and getting in trouble.
“I always thought growing up it was jail, prison or dead cause that is what a lot of my family members did.”
He also talked about how his life changed when he got into law enforcement and how he wanted to help change the lives of kids from his neighborhood.
“If I can give these kids an avenue to do something and keep their time occupied to be a mentor – that’s definitely what I am about.”
Valdez has been doing that through baseball and other sports in the Rose Park area. In fact, he’s the president of the baseball league. And this team of 9 and 10-year-old all-stars has a chance to go to Hawaii and represent Utah in a regional tournament with a chance to move on to the Little League World Series.
The players say they’re “excited” because they’ve never been anywhere like Hawaii. They’re excited because this is a big opportunity. And they’re excited to play teams from other states and Guam.
Valdez says this could be a once in a lifetime chance for these kids and he is determined to make it happen.
“It’s important to me ’cause I know what it’s like to grow up on the west side. I know what its like to not being able to travel cause the families don’t have the financial part of that. So, it’s really big for me to make sure I get these kids there.”
The kids, parents, and coaches are still raising money to pay for the trip. They’ve had car washes and a movie night – and are doing anything to raise the funds.
For Valdez, this is exactly the kind of moment he has wanted to be part of since becoming an officer. He says he just wants to help kids reach their potential and to dream and work to become something more.
“It fuels my fuel tank. It keeps me going. It makes me feel good.”
And right now – that something more – is getting this team to the regional tournament across the Pacific.
“For this team to go to Hawaii – it’s huge. It’s huge.”
A dozen players and their coaches leave to Hawaii in about three weeks. Valdez has already put thousands on his credit cards to pay for parts of the trip.
And the team has a GoFundMe page – Help Rose Park Baseball Fly Away – that you can contribute to. If you want to help them out – even a small donation helps. Go to: https://www.gofundme.com/help-rose-park-baseball-fly-away
If you want to nominate an officer for a future Behind the Badge story go to: http://www.abc4.com/badge