Running a district of champions

Carl Robinette

Fri March 28, 2014 11:13am

It was game five with the world championship on the line when the Eastlake Little League All-Star team gave up three runs in the fifth inning for a 6-4 loss in last fall’s World Series of Little league. But that was 2013. Now it’s 2014 and there is a whole new South County Little League season for Ernie Lucero, district administrator for California Little League District 42. 
“I always look forward to just seeing the kids enjoy baseball,” said Lucero.  “My favorite moments are any opening day. It’s always special,” he later added.
Tangling with angry, protective parents, disgruntled team managers and league presidents, the job of the little league administrator is not without its challenges. But love of the game, the kids and the community has kept Lucero in the district administrator’s chair for about eight years.
Lucero’s district covers South County from the international border up to Highway 54 between the shoreline and Chula Vista’s eastern boundary. And Lucero is ultimately responsible for coordinating all of the different ball clubs in the area to create a positive experience for the kids.
 “You learn a lot about conflict resolution,” Lucero said.  “I’m always going to do what is in the best interest of the league and the best interest of the kids, and what will make them love baseball.”
At the end of the day it’s not about winning or losing, or the parents or coaches, it’s about putting a smile on the kid’s face, said Lucero. His passion for the sport started in the 1960s. Lucero’s father signed him up to play on a youth baseball team, the Mud Hens. Lucero laughed, remembering the name. “We lost every game. We were horrible,” he said.
His father also volunteered to manage Lucero’s childhood baseball teams all the way into high school.
“My dad really instilled me with wanting to give back and volunteer,” said Lucero. 
But as an adult Lucero stepped away from baseball for years, until his own son was old enough to play Little League in the 1990s and Lucero rediscovered the sport. Then a league president position opened and, taking the advice of his boss at the time, Ernie volunteered for the position.
“Nobody wanted to be president,” Lucero said.  The stress and the challenges of the job, combined with the lack of salary tend to scare people off, he said.
He served as league president for about seven years before being elected by his fellow presidents in District 42 to serve as the district’s top administrator.
“Most presidents don’t make it more than one or two years typically,” Lucero said.  “Especially in a district this big.”
During his many years with Little League Lucero has been working full time, either as an investigator for the county’s internal affairs division or where he is now, in investigations for the county public defender in Chula Vista.
“This is what I like doing,” Lucero said. “Representing people who need help.”
Looking forward to the rest of 2014 and the all-star games, Lucero said he does have one regret from his many years as a little league administrator.
“I don’t think I would have done anything differently, but I would like to have gotten involved earlier as a young adult, not wait for my son to be old enough,” Lucero said.