Photo courtesy of Baseball Dad Photos. The Aces player makes contact with the ball.

Precious Coins and Gold Owner Cono Liguori and Bright Future Painting LLC Owner David Sidoti have partnered up to start a 12U AAU baseball travel team called the SouthShore Aces.

This 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization covers tournament fees and provides free uniforms and equipment to players from Valrico, Ruskin, Riverview, Gibsonton, Wimauma, Apollo Beach and Tampa that otherwise may not be able to afford it. The pair pay for everything out of their own pockets.

Liguori used to volunteer with another baseball organization, but felt like the players that could not afford to play were being left out of the equation because of the cost; therefore, he created the Aces. He is currently in charge of one team, but hopes to expand his organization to more teams ranging from the ages of 9-16 with the help of sponsors, donations and volunteers/coaches.

The Aces travel to local tournaments within 30-40 minutes in places such as Plant City, Sarasota, Bradenton, Clearwater and Largo, among others, to avoid hotel expenses. As of right now, the team travels and plays in weekend tournaments once every other week. Liguori and other coaches often give rides to players that don’t have transportation. They play twice on Saturdays and as many games as possible on Sundays if they advance deep in the tournament, and they play year-round.

Partnering up with the Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation Department, the Aces rent a practice field on Monday and Thursday nights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Progress Village fields.

The Aces currently have eight players and are forced to use guest players from other teams. They are in need of more players and have open tryouts during practice times. One of the bright spots about this program is that everybody gets to play—11-year-old boys and girls are welcome to try out. Players can’t be over the age of 12 before the cutoff date of Friday, April 30.

Liguori, who also manages the team, said that his 11-year-olds play against stacked teams with talented players that are oftentimes a year older than his kids, giving him plenty of teaching opportunities about sports and life in general.

“Sometimes we face really heavy-duty challenges, but the more you push the kids and enter challenges, it’s not only helping them play better baseball, it’s helping them learn how to become better people in life,” said Liguori.

The 69-year-old Liguori enjoys teaching kids and watching them grow, whether they win or lose, and has worked with kids that have had trouble coping with a tough life. He has raised his 11-year-old grandson, who also plays on the Aces. Liguori believes that playing the game helps give his players self-worth and confidence in themselves.

“We want to enforce a positive attitude, and we want to get them to learn baseball, big league style,” said Liguori. “By teaching them discipline and functionality on the field, we feel that we are also teaching them to be good human beings, better people in the future and have good life skills so they can cope with failure. You have to be able to deal with situations in baseball which you also have to deal with in life.”

If you would like to donate, sponsor and/or volunteer with the SouthShore Aces, reach out to Liguori via email (SouthShoreAces1@gmail.com) or call 863-899-8048. Donations and sponsorships are tax-deductible.

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