Coach Spotlight: Erin Ledesma
When she was eight years old, Erin Ledesma stepped up to the plate at her very first tee-ball game, marking the beginning of what would become an incredible softball career.
As a Sunset High School student, Ledesma remembered driving by construction at the corner of Bickers Street and North Hampton Road for months, and in 2017, she was among the first athletes to get involved in programming at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy, a decision that would change the trajectory of her softball career.
Ledesma’s years of hard work at Youth Academy training sessions, RBI All-Star and Jennie Finch Classic tournaments, and MLB Develops events set her on the path to playing college ball.
“I have to thank the Academy for where I am now,” she said. “Coach Juan [Leonel Gárciga], he's always been a big part of my softball career, I'd have to give everything to him. He helped get me recruited and has given me so many opportunities.”
Coach Juan, who also acts as the Youth Academy’s senior director, recognized Ledesma's talent and dedication, and recommended her for a scouting combine in New Orleans that led to her eventual recruitment from Southern University.
“There were several coaches [at the combine], and the Southern University coach asked me on my drive home from New Orleans if I wanted to stop by Baton Rouge to look at the campus. From there, he offered me a spot. So, my recruiting process, coach Juan had everything to do with that.”
After finding a desire to study biomedical engineering, Ledesma ultimately decided to transfer to a university that offered her preferred major.
“I told coach Juan over the summer that I was planning to transfer, and he was also a part of that recruiting process to find me a new home,” she added.
Now entering her first season as a shortstop at The University of Texas at Dallas, Ledesma said, “Transferring was probably the best thing I've done. It's a different program, a different division, and I absolutely love it. The team and the coaches were all so very welcoming, and I’m just grateful to continue playing softball while in college.”
While she had never originally considered becoming a coach herself, a call from coach Juan changed things once again.
“Coach Juan reached out when I was in college, in Louisiana, and it was just going to be a summer thing to try it out,” she said. “I had no idea that my former teammates were also asked to coach, and when we came for our orientation, we realized that it's all of us, and we knew it was going to be a great summer bringing our knowledge about the game to future generations.”
After completing her first summer and fall softball programming session as a coach, Ledesma has found a new passion within the sport.
“Coaching 9U is definitely tough, but it's very fun,” she said. “They have so much energy, and it's a whole new world for them. I feel like even though I'm teaching them, they teach me so much. I feel like I'm learning more about the game as well because I'm having to remember the basics of softball. As I’ve gotten older, I've forgotten about those things, but at the end of the day, the basics are what get you to a higher level, so I'm glad to be able to coach the 9U.
“And my older girls, wow, I've seen so much talent at such a young age. I feel softball is growing so much now, and the talent here is amazing compared to when I played here, so I'm glad to see the Academy is growing, the program is growing and our softball team is going to be amazing.”
As a past Academy athlete, Ledesma can form a different connection with former teammates she now has the opportunity to coach. As an older player, she always felt teammates looked to her for advice, and now she can communicate with her players as both a friend and coach, creating a trust that has benefitted Ledesma and her athletes.
Off-field, Ledesma prioritizes being a student before an athlete, an example that she hopes the next generation of Rangers Youth Academy ball players continue.
“Being one of the girls that do play in college, I wanted to bring light to those that are thinking about it that I did get my school paid for, and that's why I continued playing. At the end of the day, softball can take you far, but education does come first, so I do want to bring light to these girls that it is possible, and it doesn't matter what level you play as long as you have the opportunity to get your school paid for and still have fun out there.”
While she’s only just begun her coaching career, she hopes to continue working with young athletes while she nears the completion of her college degree.
“Since I am majoring in biomedical engineering, it's a very demanding major, so hopefully, I can continue to coach. I am close to the finish line and graduating, so I may have a couple of internships coming up, and that does have to come first, but any chance I get, I will be at the Academy, whether I'm coaching or on the sidelines supporting the girls that are continuing the great program here.”
No matter what comes next for Ledesma, her positive impact at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy will be felt for years, and the Youth Academy will always remain an important part of her life.
Taylor Hearn Turkey Trot Classic recap
On Nov. 19 and 20, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy competed in the Taylor Hearn Turkey Trot Classic at the Five Star Complex in The Colony, Texas. The Rangers 13U baseball team, comprised of 14 of the Academy’s best players, competed in a pool of eight teams for a chance to be named Turkey Trot Classic champions.
After opening pool play 2-0, the Rangers secured a No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals and easily advanced to the semi-final game, where they fell, 7-4, to the eventual tournament champions.
The Rangers opened the tournament with a 4-3 victory over the Hooks. Starting pitcher Levi McBride pitched 2 2/3 innings with two strikeouts, and the Rangers offense solidified the win after a walk-off double from Mark Rojas.
Key offensive contributors included Jahari Page (1-for-1, BB, 2 R), Michael Stevenson (1-for-1, BB, 2 R), Braylon Hubbard (1-for-2, RBI), Rojas (1-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI) and Aaliyah Marquez (1-for-1).
The Rangers continued the momentum into Game 2 with a commanding 13-2 win over the Outlaws. The team posted nine runs in the first inning and the bats continued to stay hot throughout the game as all nine Rangers Youth Academy starters scored.
After a strong performance on day one, the Rangers faced the BC Legends in Sunday’s quarterfinal matchup. Aaliyah Marquez was the starting and winning pitcher in the Rangers' 14-1 win, throwing four strikeouts in a three-inning complete game. As a team, the Rangers worked 10 walks to go along with six hits, which included a double and two triples. Key contributors at the plate included Simon Portillo (1-for-1, 3 RBI), Page (1-for-2, RBI, SB), Mason Berry (1-for-1, 2 BB, 2 RBI) and Rojas (1-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI).
In the semi-final game against the EA Bears, the Rangers fell short, 7-4, eliminating them from championship contention. Rojas started the game on the bump for the Rangers, but a line drive to the leg forced a fourth inning pitching change, and the team struggled to bounce back, allowing five runs before escaping the inning. While the Rangers were only able to string together three hits as a team, key contributors included Rojas (1-for-2, 2B, 2 RBI), Berry (1-for-1, BB, R) and Hubbard (1-for-1, BB, R).
Players of the tournament included Rojas, who finished the weekend 4-for-8 with two 2B, a 3B and 7 RBI, and 4 K as a pitcher. Also named offensive player of the tournament was Page, who ended the weekend 3-for-8 with 3 RBI, 6 R, 2 BB and 2 SB. On the mound, Marquez was named pitcher of the tournament finishing 2-0 with 4 IP and 7 K.
Texas Rangers Youth Academy hosts successful Thanksgiving dinner distribution
The Friday before Thanksgiving, the Texas Rangers Youth Academy and non-profit partner Buckner International hosted the annual Thanksgiving dinner distribution for West Dallas families.
During the two-hour event, 212 frozen turkeys, donated by Kroger, were passed out along with whole pies and a variety of traditional sides. Onsite to help distribute meals were Texas Rangers first baseman Nathaniel Lowe, second baseman Marcus Semien, pitcher Jon Gray and catcher Jonah Heim.