Area baseball: Community thrives with BLD
Kelly Flores takes a look at his bat and digs his cleats into the dirt.
As he prepares for the pitch to come, he wiggles his bat and steps in and makes contact.
As the ball sails across the sky towards the replica Green Monster, things start to change in front of Flores. The crowd of 30 gains a feeling of 30,000. The painted fans in the grandstands in center field feel a bit more real, and as Flores rounds first, the feeling of being in Fenway Park strikes, if only for a moment.
As a chemical operator, Flores is a far stretch from being a Major League Baseball player, but he, like numerous others, fill up League City's Big League Dreams sports complex every weeknight in competitive leagues ranging from novice players to seasoned veterans.
The complex, which opened in October of 2005, has been the central hub for coastal softball since its inception, hosting softball teams that include players from all walks of life. Players come from all around the South Houston area to play, as well as from outside the area to the facility, which features manicured replica fields of classic stadiums such as Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field.
It's proving to be a big hit in the community as well.
According to Big League Dreams spokesman Kevin Flora, the facility has been received tremendously, with its fields being booked every weekend through the year. Its attendance rate has been exceptional, with the facility reporting 275,000 paid adult admissions, with that number being 350,000 when unpaid children are taken into account.
Featuring an air conditioned bar and restaurant overlooking the fields, the facility aims to have something for everyone.
"It's a great place for someone to go play a game and relive a dream of playing in these stadiums and then go have a bite to eat with the family and watch their friends after," Flora said. "We're a family oriented organization and bring a place where no matter what age everyone can enjoy themselves."
The facility also hosts various tournaments involving teams from across the state, as well as beyond the state lines, blending fun with a competition level that attracts players of all skill-levels.
It's this wide range of competition that keeps Flores playing year-round.
"It's really great, because there are always teams to play, and there are always tournaments to play in," Flores said. "It's a good way to keep in shape and get a break from work and home."
Flores is on one of the 320 teams that flock every season to the complex, not only bringing in players to keep leagues competitive, but also valuable outside money to League City.
Since its grand opening, Big League Dreams has brought in more than 2.5 million dollars per year to the community that it calls home at last check according to Flora. Sitting as a crown jewel in a rapidly growing stretch of community, what was once a rather lone complex now is within minutes of numerous department stores, restaurants and housing sub-divisions.
It's a growth that Flora is happy to be a part of.
"There's been so much growth in that corridor with its position on I-45, we're seeing it become a large and expansive part not only of League City's community, but the surrounding areas as well," Flora said.
Adding onto that expansion will be the dollars and exposure brought to the area by the National Senior Games, which has selected Big League Dreams as its host for its softball division.
Flora couldn't be happier with that selection.
"We were extremely excited for them to choose us," he said. "The games are a very prestigious event and we were ecstatic when we were approached about this last year. Alongside of the obvious tourism dollars these games bring, we're happy to give these athletes a high-quality facility to play at."
The games, which have seen hosts such as San Francisco and Pittsburgh, are anticipating the largest athlete attendance yet for these Houston games, with 15,000 estimated to participate.
"A really cool thing about the Senior Games is that many of these athletes have been to the fields we've recreated and seen how they look," Flora said. "Hopefully we can give them an opportunity to have that feeling of their favorite players in their favorite ball parks."
The League City facility also boasts a proud statistic that seems slightly humorous in the light of the region's recent drought; it boasts the lowest rain-out rate out of any Big League Dreams facility in the nation, including Southern California.
"I know that seems irrelevant right now with the recent weather that the facility has faced, but it's an exceptional statistic and due to our turf, it guarantees that these players keep playing and it's been a big part of our success," Flora said.
Rain or not, the facility aims for one goal.
"Really what we're about is creating dreams and having fun," Flora said.
General admission to the facility is three dollars.
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