Here on the Central Coast, the Fourth of July usually means baseball, hot dogs and fireworks.
Those things wouldn't be possible without a legion of volunteers.
We see the work of volunteers in Little League, Babe Ruth and Pony League throughout the Central Coast. And of course the plethora of youth softball associations in the area thrive off the work of volunteers.
Last month alone there were nearly 60 youth baseball games in about a week's span at the District 65 Little League tournaments. Nipomo Little League hosted 40 games on its own, taking on both the 10- and 11-year-old tournaments.
Lompoc was, for the second year in a row, the host site for the big tourney, the 12-year-old District 65 Tournament. That's where kids play for a chance to make the Little League World Series. Lompoc Little League hosted 19 games there.
Santa Maria will be home to the state Babe Ruth Tournament at Elks Field starting Friday. Kids there will play for a chance to make the Babe Ruth World Series. Later this month, Five Cities will host the Pacific Southwest 14-year-old Babe Ruth Tournament in Arroyo Grande.
There will be youth softball tournaments all over the Central Coast this weekend.
PONY Baseball is prominent in the Santa Ynez Valley and leagues travel to or host some tournaments throughout the summer.
All this possible due to volunteer coaches, league members, snack bar workers and, of course, parents.
Something that gets overlooked is the umpires, who, young and old, made all these games possible throughout the spring and even the summer.
At District 65, 33 umpires, who are usually the target of the harsh words from upset parents and coaches, helped make the nearly 60 games happen. The district said Bob Draper umpired 19 games on his own and John Valverde overlooked the whole operation.
"We of course need to give Bob Draper another big thank you for taking his time away from his family and doing the most games," the district said in a statement. "Thank you, John Valverde, for your dedication and support over the years and good luck to him on his future endeavors."
Many of these umpires work during the high school and college season starting in February, and keep going through most of July. There's not much pay, but without their help games wouldn't be possible.
Though coaches get credit during the games, much of their work is behind the scenes.
There were a few noteworthy performances at the District 65 Tournament. Like he always does, JJ Ford at Santa Maria Northside worked wonders with his 12-year-old group. In what would have been one of the most unlikely runs we've seen at District 65, Ford's Northsiders lost their first game then won six straight games in seven days to force a final title game vs. Lompoc, which scored three runs in the final inning to finally end all the drama and win the district championship.
Gary Jones' work at managing that Lompoc squad was also special. Jones' brother Andrew, who now coaches football at Lompoc High, was a member of the last Lompoc team to win the big district title in 1997. That year's team was coached by their father Roger. Gary Jones and his crew ended a 21-year drought and move on to Section One, which will be hosted by Goleta Little League.
Northside's 11-year-olds won their District 65 Tournament and will also be moving on to Section One. Arroyo Grande Little League beat Coast Little League to win the 10-year-old title and is busy raising funds to make a trip to that section tournament.
If you're hankering for some more baseball, head to Elks Field in Santa Maria this weekend with the 15-year-old Babe Ruth state tournament starting Friday, which, of course, will be run by another wave of volunteers who are making these games happen and keeping the sports of baseball and softball alive and well.