|Ricky Lopez, JD Sherman, Chris Hatch, Bryce Till, Mike Zaccaria, AJ Mitcheson, Aaron Sandoval, Brett Johnson, Brandon Branch, Ron Herrera, Kyle Esquibel, Adam Martinez, Joe Via, Blake Mortensen, Trever Thompson, James McKendrick, Brady Wilde, Kyler Edgehouse, Marcus Zaccaria, Jordan Moynier, Jeff Cisneros, manager, John Gianini, coach, Dusty Litster, coach, Joe Via, coach.|
This season's Helper American Legion baseball team finished second in the state tournament for the third time in the past five seasons. Although they have been the runner-up in this state three times, people outside of legion ball sometimes do not appreciate how outstanding an effort that has been by our local athletes.
Legion teams all play in a single division with no division based on size. Whether your team can draw from a single school or several, whether there are a few thousand residents or a hundred thousand makes no difference. Each team, in order to win, has to be able to take them all on and our local team does that very well.
Jeff Cisneros, Dusty Litster and John Gianini coach Helper's team. Helper's players come mainly from Carbon High and Emery High with a player from Green River, Moab or Duchesne added to the mix once in awhile. Carbon and Emery counties are not very big, in case you haven't noticed.
In contrast, the St. George team is made up off the best players from Snow Canyon, Dixie, Pineview and Hurricane high schools and once in awhile from Kanab and Cedar City. Washington County is six times the size of these two counties.
Although the players constantly change over the years, the constant has been Cisneros. Cisneros, who grew up in Emery County and played for Emery High, now lives in Price. Jeff has coached this team now for 10 summers and as the coach is highly paid, not.
Not only is Cisneros not paid, he actually takes money out of his own pocket to fund the team. His wife may not be happy with this arrangement but she does support him and his passion.
When asked why he coaches, Jeff said, "I like the kids. In 10 seasons, there are only three or four kids that I wouldn't have back. I feel good doing this." Jeffs is a handyman when it comes to this team. Besides coaching he can also be found spraying weeds, painting bleachers and fixing restrooms. For most Salt Lake teams, this is as far as they ever travel and usually the only time they travel out of the valley. Jeff wants the experience to be good for them also.
Each season Cisneros keeps the "20 best players on the team" and the "nine best play each day." Carbon and Emery players come together on this team and do good things. This season found the Helper team having an up and down year.
Although they finished in the middle of the pack for season play in the Salt Lake league, Cisneros saw his players constantly improve. Finishing second in the state tournament was a culmination of a fine year that saw the local boys constantly get better.
The kids play throughout the west. This team got exposure in Utah, Idaho and Montana. Coaches and pro scouts are aware of the abilities of players on the team. Nineteen players over the years have earned college scholarships and several have gone on to professional careers.
Helper lost to Taylorsville in the championship game last month. Taylorsville has 12 19-year-olds on their team including six college players. They are an older team than Helper. Last season, Helper lost to St. George in the championship. I already told you where those players come from.
Emery county players on this year's squad included Kyler Edgehouse, Trever Thompson, Blake Mortensen, Ron Herrera and AJ Mitcheson.
Kyler was a pitcher. He threw more innings than anybody and never seemed to tire. Kyler improved as the season went on with better spot control.Trever was Helper's most consistent player. Trever is a great centerfielder and hits the ball really well.
Blake is an interesting story. Despite his family having had great pitchers in the past for Emery High, Blake had never pitched before this legion season. Blake turned into Helper's third solid pitcher and saw a lot of mound time in relief. Blake generally starts at catcher and has a strong arm behind the plate. He really started hitting the ball well the last three weeks of the year.
Ron and AJ saw action on the mound during the year.
Cisneros has told his teams "All I want you to do is to earn the respect of the teams we play." I think they have done this. I believe Jeff Cisneros has also done this as his commitment to this team and our kids have benefited us all.