Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year Regional Winner
The late Vernon “Lefty” Gomez was one of Babe Ruth League’s most dedicated volunteers. One of the reasons he was so committed to the program was because he witnessed firsthand the positive impact Babe Ruth League had on the young participants. Lefty knew Babe Ruth League relied on the many volunteers who served as mentors, set positive examples, and gave unselfishly of their time and resources to provide an enjoyable, wholesome, and educational baseball and softball experience.
Since 1991, Babe Ruth League, Inc. has been awarding an annual “Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year Award”. This esteemed award is presented to one individual in baseball and one in softball. Its recipients must embody the spirit of the philosophy of Babe Ruth League, which is to provide the best possible sports experience for every child who has the desire to play.
Beginning with the 2023 season, Babe Ruth League, Inc. is introducing the first “Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year” Regional Award Winner Program. Each year, the eight Babe Ruth League Regional Commissioners will select one volunteer from their region, who has gone above and beyond to promote and further develop the Babe Ruth League program, to receive this prestigious award. Selection will not be limited to any protocol, title, or position held.
Listed below are the 2023 recipients:
NEW ENGLAND REGION
Ken Smith (Southbury, CT) started in the Babe Ruth program volunteering for the Southbury Youth Babe Ruth League (now known as the Pomperaug Babe Ruth League). From 1998 to 2014 and from 2016 to 2022, he has served as a coach, and as a League Treasurer, Secretary, Registrar, Webmaster, and Commissioner. Smith was instrumental in developing the league’s website with SportsEngine and enabling electronic registration.
Smith served as a Tournament Chairperson for numerous Connecticut District and State Tournaments, was a member of the tournament committee for the New England Regional Tournament hosted by Southbury and assisted the Connecticut State Commissioner and New England Regional Commissioner at many State and Regional Tournaments. In addition, Smith implemented the use of Tourney Machine for all Connecticut Babe Ruth Softball, Cal Ripken Baseball, and Babe Ruth Baseball District and State Tournaments, and for the New England Regional Tournaments.
Since the start of the 2023 season, Smith now volunteers as Secretary/Treasurer for the Connecticut Babe Ruth State Organization.
MIDDLE ATLANTIC REGION
Evelyn Skiendziel’s (Clifton, NJ) involvement with Babe Ruth League covers 50+ years, and in an era where change in leadership is often, she continues to carry the Babe Ruth League mantle. Whether it is a League President, a State Commissioner, a Regional Commissioner, or Babe Ruth Headquarters, they all know they can call on Skiendziel for help and support.
Evelyn Skiendziel has said many times that baseball has been in her life as long as she can remember. She started at age nine, serving as a scorekeeper for her father’s team in the local Clifton Babe Ruth League. When Skiendziel was old enough, she coached several teams for the Clifton Babe Ruth League. In 1975 when her dad was serving as Northern New Jersey State Commissioner, Skiendziel took on the position of Assistant State Commissioner. In 1991, Skiendziel was named an Assistant Regional Commissioner for the Middle Atlantic Babe Ruth Leagues, a position she still holds today.
Skiendziel has been a member of the Task Force for 22 different Babe Ruth League World Series, covering all age divisions.
In addition to Skiendziel being named the 2023 Middle Atlantic Babe Ruth “Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year” Regional winner, she was inducted into the Babe Ruth League International Hall of Fame in 2019, inducted into the Middle Atlantic Babe Ruth League Hall of Fame in 2012, and was named the David Sunflower Seeds Scorekeeper of the Year in 2000.
OHIO VALLEY REGION
Mike Pyles (Elizabethtown, KY) began his affiliation with Babe Ruth League in 1999, volunteering as a coach and board member at the local league level. After leaving the local league level, Pyles served as a District Commissioner until being elected State Commissioner for the West Kentucky Babe Ruth Leagues in 2014, a position he still holds today.
Pyles is a 1989 graduate of Ball State University where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Political Science. He is currently employed by American Fuji Seal in Bardstown, Kentucky, where he serves as Plant Manager for the 600-employee company that manufactures shrink sleeve labels for food and pharmaceutical industries.
A devoted family man, Pyles and his wife Beth have three sons, Davis, Ben, and Ryan. All three boys grew up playing Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth Baseball, and currently umpire many Babe Ruth local league and tournament games.
One of Jamie Bohn’s (Rockville, VA) most impressive qualities is the selfless dedication of his time, energy, and resources he has provided as a volunteer coach with the Rockville Babe Ruth Softball community for the past 18 years. He communicates to the players on his team with a quiet enthusiasm that enables them to believe in themselves, and strive to become not only better players, but outstanding citizens.
And Bohn doesn’t just interact with the players on his team, but with all players on the field. He frequently provides coaching tips and encouragement to players on opposing teams during games. In addition, Bohn is often seen at the field helping all players in the league improve their batting and hitting skills, as well as giving pointers for overall improvement.
Bohn’s love of softball and coaching has inspired his daughter Kayleigh, who he has been coaching since she was five years old. Kayleigh stopped playing softball competitively when she was 16 and joined her dad on field as an Assistant Coach.
Throughout his time coaching for the Rockville Babe Ruth Softball League, Bohn has positively impacted the lives of countless players.
Professionally, Bohn recently retired from the Richmond Fire Department after 32 years serving as a firefighter and IT Analyst.
MIDEST PLAINS REGION
Wayne Beyer (The Woodlands, TX – formerly of Wahpeton, ND) began his involvement with the program in 1969, playing for the Abercrombie, North Dakota Babe Ruth team until 1971. He was affiliated with the North Dakota Babe Ruth League for over 43 years, serving in various positions, such as Secretary-Treasurer for the Richland County Babe Ruth League and North Dakota Babe Ruth State Organization. Under his jurisdiction, Wahpeton, North Dakota hosted two Midwest Plains Regional Tournaments and 20+ North Dakota State Tournaments.
In addition to receiving the inaugural Midwest Plains Babe Ruth “Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year” Regional Award, Beyer was inducted into the North Dakota Babe Ruth Hall of Fame in 2016, was the first inductee to receive the North Dakota Babe Ruth Iron Man Award in 2022, and had the distinct honor of having the Wahpeton, North Dakota youth baseball and softball complex named, “Wayne Beyer Fields.”
Professionally, Beyer served as Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Wahpeton, North Dakota for 43 years, offering youth baseball and softball programs and managing baseball and softball fields. Beyer was a member of the Optimists Club, Three Rivers Arts Council, Prairie Pothole Partners, Healthy Communities, Chahinkapa Zoo Association, and Tri-State Safety Association. He was past-President of North Dakota Recreation and Parks, North Dakota Urban Forestry, North Dakota Horticulture, and North Dakota Wildlife Federation.
Beyer was named Wahpeton Citizen of the Year two times and North Dakota League of Cities Employee of the Year. Beyer received the North Dakota Community Leadership Award, North Dakota Wildlife Federation and Red River Sportsmen’s Club Sportsman of the Year, National Recreation and Parks Distinguished Professional and Boy Scout Community Service Award.
Tony Hendrix (Bay Minette, AL) has been involved with the Babe Ruth League program for 40 years. He has had much success as a coach, manager, and league officer for the Gulf Coast Advanced Babe Ruth 16-18 League. As manager he has guided the league’s “Rawdogs” tournament team to ten Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series championships.
Hendrix also serves as Alabama Babe Ruth State Commissioner, as well as District 11/12 Commissioner. Under Hendrix’ leadership, the state of Alabama has seen an increase in Babe Ruth leagues and teams. In addition, Hendrix has had a positive influence on hundreds of youth who have participated in the Gulf Coast Advanced league. Serving as a mentor, he teaches the young athletes to conduct themselves in an admirable manner, treat all with respect, have a plan of action for their future, and to become model citizens.
Under his leadership, Mobile, Alabama hosted two successful Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series. The 2019 Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series was played at Jacobs Field at the University of Mobile; the 2021 was held at Hank Aaron Stadium.
Hendrix indicated, "Mobile is a proud baseball community. The “Rawdogs” have had the pleasure to take part in several Babe Ruth World Series and have been fortunate enough to bring home ten World Series titles. In addition to a great competitive athletic experience, we were left with many lifetime memories to share. To be able to return the favor, share some Southern hospitality, and create memorable moments for the teams participating in the 2019 and 2021 Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series was a dream come true for Mobile."
PACIFIC NORTHWEST REGION
Mike Doyle (Calgary, Alberta) has been affiliated with Babe Ruth League for 15 years, holding such titles as manager, coach, and League President for the Calgary Babe Ruth League. He currently serves as President/Treasurer of the Alberta Babe Ruth League and as an Assistant State Commissioner for the Alberta Babe Ruth League State Organization.
Doyle is responsible for establishing the first Cal Ripken League in Calgary, Alberta. In addition, he restructured the Babe Ruth League program in Calgary to bring it back into financial stability and grow the program to compete with travel team opportunities in the area. Under Doyle’s leadership, Calgary hosted several Pacific Northwest regional tournaments, thereby exposing USA players to Canada, many for the first times in their lives.
In addition to receiving the inaugural Pacific Northwest Babe Ruth “Lefty Gomez Volunteer of the Year” Regional Award, Doyle received the following honors/awards:
- Leadership Recognition for Babe Ruth – “The Catch” – Willie Mayes
- League Builder for Babe Ruth – “The Bat Flip” – Jose Bautista
Doyle is a member of the Queensland/Diamond Cover Community Association and the 172 Queensland Scout Group. He is Treasurer for the Alberta Amateur Baseball Council, and Treasurer for the University of Calgary Dinos Baseball.
PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION
Carl Watanabe (Honolulu, HI) has been part of the Babe Ruth League program for over 24 years. He began his involvement in 1999, volunteering as an Assistant State Commissioner for the Hawaii Babe Ruth Leagues. He served in this position until 2004, when he was appointed Hawaii State Commissioner.
Watanabe has selflessly devoted his time and resources to support Babe Ruth League and its participants. He has had a positive and steady influence on thousands of youth, not just in Hawaii, but throughout the entire Babe Ruth Pacific Southwest Region. Under his leadership as State Commissioner, Hawaii has seen a surge in teams, and Watanabe attributes the success to great volunteers and dedicated coaching.
Hawaii’s roots in Babe Ruth League go very deep. The state has made many Babe Ruth World Series appearances, bringing home 10 World Series titles.
It can be difficult for Hawaii Babe Ruth teams to play top competition beyond the islands. Travel to the mainland can be expensive, especially when you may only have a week or two to plan. Hotel rooms need to be booked. And a lot of souvenirs need to be purchased (one thing common to Hawaii teams is that as soon as they know they are traveling to a tournament, they bring gifts as a sign of appreciation).
However, Watanabe and his Assistant State Commissioners do everything within their power to support the Hawaiian teams’ tournament endeavors. “Watanabe indicated, “The Babe Ruth World Series experience affords our teams the opportunity to show the aloha spirit to the whole world. Because of these reasons and so many more, we are honored to place priority on making sure our teams can participate in a Babe Ruth League World Series.”