In 1956 a group of Parish dads decided to start a local spring baseball and softball program for the surrounding community. Working with Saint Francis Xavier Parish, these parents secured the use of the land where they built the fields and original facilities. They started with eight teams and 60 players and the following year the league grew to 14 teams. The girls' softball league started in either 1958 or 1959. Prior to the 19650 season, the St Francis Xavier Athletic Association was officially incorporated as a non-profit entity. By 1960, league participation had grown to over 500 children.
The facilities, an old meeting/classroom with restrooms, a run down snack bar and two lighted ball fields, were in a dilapidated condition, creating an unsafe environment in desperate need of repair. At that time, a vision was formed to be more than just a spring baseball league. The mission was redefined to focus on building community and a course was set to create an environment capable of fulfilling our goals. The group of parents, all volunteers became the St. Francis Xavier Athletic Association.
Since 1995, the vision has been transformed into reality through tremendous community involvement and support. We have reached out to all members of the Catholic Community and greater Phoenix Community, asking for their involvement, and have been richly rewarded. Participation in our spring league has tripled to over a thousand children within 600 families virtually bringing our fields to capacity. Families not only include children attending St. Francis Xavier School, but also Parish families that do not attend school and other families not associated with the Parish. The Saint Francis Xavier Athletic Association provides a forum for all, both Catholic and non-Catholic, an opportunity to be connected to the Parish community. It is truly a way for the Parish to reach out to the community.
We now serve families from 59 zip codes and provide financial support to those in need in the form of scholarships and a multi-child discount for larger families. Participation levels have increased more than 500% to include over 1,500 annual participants and their families with the focus on creating and building community. Many of our families, nearly 40%, now come from St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Theresa, Most Holy Trinity and St. Gregory Parishes.
The Spring League now consists of 1,000 children ranging in age from 3 to 14 playing on 98 different teams and totaling of over 1,000 games. In addition to games within the Spring League, the fifth/sixth and seventh/eighth grade participants compete against the Sts. Simon & Jude Spring League.
In 2004 the Association inaugurated the Fall Soccer League, which has grown to over 450 children competing at four levels up through fourth grade.
Community support is also evident in the number of volunteers. The Association is an all volunteer league with over 400 annual volunteers. Responsibilities include commissioners, who are responsible for the various programs, coaches, assistants, snack bar operations, field maintenance, team coordination, fund raising, capital improvements and coordination with the School and Parish. Volunteers give over 7,000 hours per year to this important Parish ministry. The Association has partnered with the Brophy and Xavier Catholic communities to provide umpires and officials, snack bar staff, coaching clinics and player clinics. We employ several members of both Boys Hope and Girls Hope communities and provide scholarships for those who wish to participate.
Our success can be measured not only by the increase in league participants, but also by the tremendous community support in redeveloping the facilities. Since 1995 we have seen upwards of $275,000 worth of improvements to our facility, almost completely donated through the community. This past season, over 75 local companies supported the Association through donations, labor, materials and other in-kind services. All of these improvements have come without direct financial support from the Parish.
These improvements create an environment designed to improve the quality of the experience for the entire family, not just the participants. They provide the families viewing the games an area to eat, do homework and play. The bleachers and dugout areas are all covered and misted providing a cool, comfortable environment even during the summer months. The fields have been restored and the lighting replaced. New training facilities have been developed including two bull pens and three lighted batting cages. The old Hughes Hall 150 building has been completely renovated into a snack bar, bathrooms, and meeting room with equipment storage. An additional storage and maintenance building was purchased.
Our greatest achievement of all is our new Community Pavilion, consisting of a 50' x 100' event lawn and a covered, misted family pavilion, including picnic tables. The Community Pavilion has been most instrumental in providing the family atmosphere the Association strives to promote. This Pavilion is used to host our Association's social events, coaches meetings, and various other School activities and Parish gatherings.
Since 2006, the Association has taken complete responsibility for operational and maintenance costs for the facility, eliminating this burden from the school operating budget. Ongoing plans include developing and implementing an outreach service project, continued support of our Parish and school, and a strong commitment to teaching each participant the Ignatian values of community and respect.
Community participation is the measurement of our success. The St. Francis Xavier Athletic Association is a valuable Parish ministry and helps connect to our Catholic faith and Parish.