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Must be the shoes for Lions Hondo

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Lions Hondo wears a flag design on their shoe, which makes their uniform look patriotic. (J.T. Keith Photo)

There are three local teams left in All-Star baseball for Chaves County: Noon Optimist, Lions Hondo team and Roswell Intermediate All-Stars. Each of the three teams are seeing action this weekend.

Of the three teams remaining, no team has cooler-looking shoes than the Lions Hondo 11-12-year-old All-Star team. These shoes make their uniforms and can be attributed to their stellar play so far. Lions Hondo is undefeated and snatched victory from a sure defeat against Artesia in their first All-Star game. If the team can make it to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, their shoes will be one of the things that will be chronicled and talked about.

After a bye in the first round, Lions Hondo dug themselves into a hole and trailed 8-0 at the end of three innings. What made Lions Hondo All-Star season was the comeback against Artesia when, in the fourth inning, they hit the comeback switch and started playing together as a team in the fourth inning. Hits that weren’t falling started to fall. Artesia went cold at the plate and Lions Hondo kept at it until they tied the game up and took the lead, to finally win the game in the seventh inning, 11-10.

The main reason this team never gives up is that they are all friends off the field. It is not unusual for the team to be hanging out together off the field. The coaches attribute the closeness to the team’s never-say-die attitude and unity. With such closeness, they never care who gets the credit. On this team there are no superstars — it is a true team effort.

In a game, it might be a second baseman making a run-saving play or another player getting a big base hit to drive in a run. This team has lived up to their mantra of “Attitude and Effort.” Coach Savino Sanchez has preached to play until the last out and to never give up. Savino doesn’t mind errors as long as the team learns from it and moves on from there. He doesn’t want one error to become two errors and so forth.

“I expect the team to work hard and have a good attitude,” Sanchez said. “I believe that if the team can do those two things, everything will take care of itself.”

The team calls the shoes their All-Star shoes. The team earned shoes by fundraising, selling signature ads for a program. The team went door to door and sold to family members for them to have their uniforms and shoes.

“What the kids do is get $10 an ad,” player agent Josh Torres said. “What that does is shows the kids to appreciate and understand how we earn things. We just don’t want to give it to them. Of course, as a league, we have funds set aside for these kinds of things. We think it is a better all-around experience for them to work hard out here and it reflects how we work in real life.”

Torres feels that everything Lions Hondo does in the Little League is to prepare them to become men. His takeaway is that each kid may aspire to make it to be a professional baseball player; they may not make it, but he hopes to mold each of the kids that play in that league to aspire to be good men.

Torres as a player agent feels the biggest things he wants to correct are the things that are wrong with today’s youth, such as respect, which he feels like is a thing of the past. Torres looks forward to when his ex-players come up to him in years after their All-Star experience and reminisce about what a good time it was.

The red, white and blue colors represent Little League according to Torres, which is about America’s favorite pastime, baseball.

“Little League is all about hard work,” Torres said, “which is going to reap some awesome rewards. This is some of the stuff the kids earned through their fundraising. They are going to do great things not only on the baseball field, but in life in general.”

Torres honors the 1956 Lions Hondo Little League championship team. Before every game, the public address announcer says, “Good evening and welcome to Lions Hondo, home of the 1956 Little League World Series champions.”

Torres feels like the shoes represent the 1956 championship team, and through hard work, dreams do come true and anything is possible, if the 1956 team did it, every team has an equal opportunity to do it now. Lions Hondo is undefeated in their games, 3-0.

Lions Hondo will play at 9 a.m. Saturday in Carlsbad against the Albuquerque Roadrunners.