Not playing for peanuts

By Teresa Hammond

For some it’s in their blood, for others a simple interest and chance at something big. There is little a family might know as they join forces with Tracy-based, All American Sports Academy Teams, yet one thing is for certain – they have found one of the best.

According to co-founder and Board of Directors President Jaime Jimenez, Southern California is the “mecca of softball.” Yet that has not affected or swayed the progress of this grassroots organization, which began over a decade ago.

“We originally started out as a softball/baseball travel organization,” Jimenez shared of its 2006 start up, joining forces with All American Sports Academy, Inc., a training facility in business for the past 20 years.

“These teams travel throughout California, some out of state,” he said of the 14 travel teams spread across Northern California. “They just try and compete at the highest level. When your teams from Northern California can go down there (So Cal) and compete, that says something about your organization.”

Jimenez and fellow co-founder Mario Moreno weren’t looking for something big when they first began the travel teams in 2006. They quite simply just wanted a place for their girls to play ball and be fostered, coached and developed in a supportive environment. Partnering with Debbie Nelson, founder of All American Sports Academy, Inc., utilizing the Tracy address and building as they went proved to be a winning combination.

It was a time when both fathers found their softball players unhappy with their current team and looking for a place to play. Around this same time Jimenez was teaching for the Academy and approached Debbie with the idea.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, the 14 travel teams include approximately 200 participants ranging in age from under eight to 18. Over 40 coaches work with the players on a weekly basis, 10 to 11 months a year. Six out of the 14 teams have qualified to compete at the Premier Girls Fast Pitch, one of the highest levels of competition.

“We have become one of the most well respected organizations within Northern California,” Jimenez said, recognizing his team, the board, and the coaches as being responsible.

The focus of his team is simple: training, recruitment and worrying about what they’re doing versus what others are doing.

“As you build, people want to be a part of something good,” he said. “When you’re good at what you do, people want in. We’ve had kids that have been with us and gone through the whole program and end up playing with a Division 1 college.”

As the program has grown, however, Jimenez shared the focus of Division 1 ready players has shifted. The organization now focuses on grooming players to their optimum potential and partnering them with the right college which is the best fit for the player and family. They are one of the few travel organizations that offers a college coordinator to aid players and families with the process.

With three grown daughters, a son and now two grandchildren, Jimenez admitted that there are times he questions why he is still so involved with the world of softball.

“The satisfaction comes in seeing the success of the players,” he said.

To date All American Sports Academy Teams has had players advance to the World Series level, as well as two Junior USA players and one has played for nationals.

“Once kids go through all of this, there’s nothing that can stop them,” he said. “We feel we have so much to offer that if parents don’t buy in and agree with how we run this program it’s probably not going to be a good fit and that’s okay.

“We’ve got some future Olympians from our program,” Jimenez added. “It feels good to empower these young women, because it teaches them so much more.”

Jimenez said he feels enriched as well.

“It gave so much to us as a family,” he said of the sport of softball, “that I always wanted to give back. Sort of a pay it forward.”

As testament to its leadership and positive growth, additional travel teams were recently started in Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas through the local organization.

For information on All American Sports Academy Teams visit www.allamericansportsacademy.net.

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