Former Houston Astro, Larry Dierker, is hitting a home run in Cy-Fair with little league players of all skill levels
Written by Kimberly P. Taylor and Kirsten Cornell | Photography by Louie Galvez
Larry Dierker, former All-Star MLB pitcher, announcer, and Houston Astros team manager, and Ray Hughes, pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church, saw a chance to influence young athletes. These inspiring men, along with the support of Cy-Hope, created Dierker’s Champs, an organization that is committed to helping develop champions on and off the baseball field.
Mission Makes a Difference
The mission of Dierker’s Champs is simple and yet highly impactful in the lives of young people in Cy-Fair. “We wanted to create an environment where kids of all ages could enjoy excellence in baseball instruction while having fun and developing life skills along the way,” says Hughes.
Dierker’s Champs teams provide a fun environment for kids to grow in character, discipline, and sportsmanship. Ultimately, Dierker hopes that the lessons learned in competition will help kids grow and achieve success in life. “When a kid who has never been on a team gets his own uniform and puts it on, it is transformative,” says Dierker. “You can see it in his smile. For the first time he is a teammate, and he will find that there are all sorts of challenges that go along with it. Lessons for life are wrapped in a field of fun.”
Teams of all levels participate in the Cy-Fair Sports Association Baseball League. All teams in Dierker’s Champs are select, elite, or premier teams. “We don’t run a league,” adds Dierker. “We recruit coaches who share our values and want to use the game of baseball to make kids’ lives better in Cy-Fair. Our coaches then assemble teams through tryouts or by inviting friends and neighbors.”
“Coaches have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact on the lives of their athletes, and with the right instruction, players grow in character, discipline, and sportsmanship. We want to make life better for the kids in Cy-Fair,” Hughes adds. Dierker’s Champs is doing just that.
In addition to instructing young players in the art of baseball, Dierker’s Champs also holds annual coaching workshops for middle and high school coaches that are designed to help them positively impact the lives of their players.
“Investing in our coaches is as important as investing in our players. We’ve been fortunate to be able to bring in expert keynote speakers who instruct, encourage, and provide meaningful insights into the multipronged responsibilities of coaching,” says Hughes. “Coaches can pour so much into the lives of players in the way of life instruction, character building, and helping to ground kids in their faith.”
Through coaching workshops, they have seen coaches in the Cy-Fair area come together to rally around the importance of not just “winning,” but of helping to mold “winners.” Consistency of integrity and character are more important than the final numbers on a scoreboard.
Working as a Team
A huge part of the equation for the Champions’ success is parental involvement. While the leaders and coaches of the organization pour as much into their young athletes as they can, Dierker is adamant that it also requires intentional effort from the parents as well. “We are a team, and we are in this together,” he says.
Each year at baseball camp, Dierker hosts an event called “Talk to Parents” where he encourages and prepares them for what’s ahead during the season. Dierker’s Champs also develops drills that parents can do at home with their all-stars to work on techniques.
Dierker not only holds high expectations for his coaches and players, but the parents as well. “We want all the spectators at our games to look at the ‘DC’ on our hats and know we’re the real deal. We want them to sense that there is something going on in our program that is essentially good, even if they can’t see it,” he says.
Dierker’s Champs asks for support from their families including not yelling at the coach of umpire, providing only positive feedback, and not second-guessing the coach in front of their players while watching the game or at home. “They have an important role to play here,” Dierker says.
Forging the Future
Dierker’s Champs believe that sports provide a great opportunity for young people to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In fact, studies have shown that kids who play sports are less likely to become involved in illicit drug use or commit crimes.
“Playing team sports teaches children how to get along, foloow the rules, think strategically, develop sportsmanlike character, and it builes their self-esteem. These kids are the next generation to lead Cy-Fair, and we’re very proud of their accomplishments,” says Hughes. “We’re always looking for coachoes who share our faith-based values and welcome new coaching applicatnas and players.” CFM
KIMBERLY P. TAYLOR is a freelance writer and resident of the Cy-Fair community. She once had the privilege of singing “The Star Spangled Banner” at a Houston Astros game.
KIRSTEN CORNELL is a lead associate editor at Cy-Fair Magazine who loves a hot dog and a great game of baseball.