Few things are as American as baseball, yet not every family has the resources to pay for uniforms, mitts, cleats and equipment.
That's one of the reasons why the Bolden Little League was founded in 2016. It gives economically challenged parents in Las Vegas’ historic Westside neighborhood the opportunity for their kids to play ball at no cost while providing players with the experience of participating in a team sport. As the Bolden Little League's president Mario Berlanga says, "Without our ability to provide everything these kids need to play ball, many kids simply would not be on the team."
When the Bolden Little League's uniforms and equipment were destroyed in a fire caused by vandals, Bank of Nevada stepped forward to help the team buy what was needed for the upcoming season; however, Bank of Nevada Division CEO John Guedry went one step further. Guedry contacted local professional sports teams and associations seeking their support of the Bolden Little League, knowing the team's impact on children in the historic Westside neighborhood. The potential donors who Guedry contacted agreed it was a worthwhile effort.
On opening day, Guedry, along with Jerrie Merritt, community development manager at Bank of Nevada, represented all donors sourced for the Bolden Little League. Mario Berlanga was presented with a $20,000 check.
"It feels great," said Berlanga. "You have to believe in the community and the people of Las Vegas who supported us to make sure our kids could play baseball."
The Bolden Little League was also founded in an effort to lessen the divide between the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and youth in the historic Westside community. Many current and former officers have served as coaches and mentors to the players, which has helped increase their trust in law enforcement. Berlanga strongly believes this has led to a reduction in crime in the neighborhood.
But for the players, it truly is all about baseball. And that is what motivates Berlanga.
"When I was young, I couldn't play ball because my parents didn't have the money to pay the fees," said Berlanga. "For many of our local families with two or three children, they can't pay. I know that feeling, I've been there, and I think that pushes me to make this league a success."