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April 8, 2020

On the Lowdown: Grizzlies’ softball team is asking for assistance

Pajaro Valley High softball coach Shelley Chavez has been busy this season with her first task of building a full roster from scratch.

It’s something that can be very daunting for a first-year coach of a program that’s struggled to find success in recent years.

But she’s also been busy sending out letters to several community members, asking for help to enrich the softball program to give players the right tools to be able to play at their full potential.

“I have become aware of the many tools and basic needs that the program and girls are lacking,” she wrote. “A monetary, tax deductible donation from community members, such as yourselves, would help immensely with the success of strengthening this program to its potential.”

Chavez wrote the letter, which was dated Jan. 2, to point out the program’s needs ranges from game balls, batting tees, nets, uniforms, a pitching machine and help facilitating rides to games. She’s asking for a donation of at least $100, or more if possible, to support this upcoming season and others in the future.

“Softball benefits girls by building self-esteem through failure and success, teaches respect for themselves and others, creates better communication skills on and off the field and provides a path to fostering strong relationships at school and at home,” Chavez wrote.

Joe Manfre, athletic director at Pajaro Valley, said they need as much support as they can get.

“It’s really tough asking the kids to fundraise, fundraise, fundraise,” Manfre said. “It’s always nice when the coaches help out a little bit and set something up on their own…it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Manfre said there’s only so many cars they can wash, and candies and flowers the athletes can sell. He mentioned the basketball team once sold clothes on the campus to raise funds.

“There’s a lot of people in this community that are willing to help, they just need to be asked,” Manfre said.

Pajaro Valley High softball coach Shelley Chavez looks at helmet that needs to be replaced for the upcoming season, which begins Monday. (Juan Reyes — The Pajaronian)

I met with Chavez at Rolling Hills Middle School, which has been home to the Grizzlies’ softball team since their inception in 2006. She showed me the off-white storage shed where the team stores their equipment such as worn out helmets, bats and balls.

Chavez also showed me an outdated pitching machine. She said she needs equipment that can take the place of a coach in repetitive drills.

“It’s a skill building tool and I don’t necessarily need the best and most expensive,” she said. “I need something to provide this training tool for these girls.”

Chavez said she sent out about a little more than a hundred letters with the expectations of having at least one or two bite.

“I wanted the community to know what we’re trying to do here at P.V.,” Chavez said. “There’s a ton of talent at Pajaro Valley High School and they haven’t been on the map that long and that’s my goal.”

Chavez said she’s aware Watsonville High has dominated softball in this area but there’s room for more.

The inside of the storage shed itself isn’t in the best condition either. The paint is falling off the ceiling and there are holes that allow water to get inside during a rainstorm.

The shelves need to be reinforced for safety and the floor needs to be updated so it’s sealed tight. Chavez’s dad, Clifford Rains, said the estimate for repair costs is roughly $2,000.   

Chavez said she has a vision of bringing in more tournaments into the area and grooming Pajaro Valley athletes into travel ball players.

“These girls deserve it, they all work hard,” she said.

Last year, ground was broken on the school’s site for its $15 million athletics facilities project.

The project includes a new softball field, a field turf for football and soccer, an all-purpose track, bleachers and a concessions stand, which is scheduled for completion in August 2020.

Funding for the new athletic facilities comes mostly through Measure L, which was a $150 million school bond approved by district voters in 2012.

The project has been in the works since the high school first opened its doors in 2004.

I’ve also visited the gymnasium several times and that place is also crying for repairs. The biggest thing I noticed is the paint peeling off the walls, the doors look worn down and the league title banners are barely clinging on to who knows what.

I’m not dissing the Grizzlies’ Den, at all. I’m saying it could use a little touch-up.

Manfre said the Pajaro Valley Unified School District gives each school an allotted amount of money for athletics. The money is used to help pay for game officials and certain things like a new netting system the volleyball program needs that costs around $6,000.

“I’d like to get new padding in the gym and new padding in our wrestling room,” Manfre said. “But there’s a lot of things that people don’t see that the district doesn’t pay for.”

Manfre said the school district helps out but there are other items on the list such as uniforms and warm ups that require funding from other places.

Manfre said he hopes the new sports facilities will be infectious to the rest of the programs on campus.

“To get more participation out and to get more pride in P.V. because we’re going to have a field to call our own,” Manfre said. “I know those things aren’t going to solve all the problems we have but it’s going to be a start.”

The softball season begins on Monday. I know it’s tough to shell out $100 but to me it’s money well worth spending if it’s going to give these girls up-to-date gear and uniforms.

In fact, I’m going to donate $100 myself to help out the program. For those interested in donating, you can mail a check payable to Pajaro Valley High School at 500 Harkins Slough Rd., Watsonville, CA 95076.

Make sure to include “softball donation” on the memo line, then wait for a tax deductible receipt will be mailed for personal records. 

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