DOWNEY – The Downey Ball Hogs and Lady Hogs are hard at work preparing for their upcoming travel ball season.
The Ball Hogs were created by founder and coach Lovell Johnson, who put together a team at the request of his son who wanted to play basketball during the winter and spring. Originally Johnson didn’t believe the endeavor would last long.
“I thought it was a flash in the pan thing that was gonna happen, then we started getting more boys and it ballooned into three teams,” said Johnson.
At that point, however, Johnson realized that funds were starting to become an issue for many of the kids and their families.
“It was like ‘it’s too expensive for everybody here,’ so to maintain it I was dumping into it out of my own pocket,” said Johnson. “…I noticed the parents I was getting was a lot of single parent families; a lot of at-risk kids too believe it or not. What we could do is fundraise and whatever is short I’ll put in. We were only charging them $50, when most other teams are somewhere around $150 to $300 a month.”
Soon after their initial success, the Ball Hogs attracted girls to the league, and the Lady Hogs were born. The league currently has around 40 kids, however when the high school kids become re-eligible to play travel ball in March, the league will expand to around 150.
Johnson describes his eighth grade girls’ team as playing at the elite level, while the others play at more of a novice level. The eighth grade girls’ team is extremely competitive and has had a lot of success.
“They won Utah Nationals last year,” said Johnson. “…They go out all around.”
The Lady Hogs will be heading to Florida in July of this year, as well as Los Vegas and Reno.
Currently, several of the team moms are busy at work trying to prepare for such trips, as well as the team’s local play.
“The older girls, you know they’re gonna be going to Reno, they’re gonna go to Vegas. We’re trying to get them sponsors so that this can be easier on the pockets for the parents, because it can be very expensive, especially with the traveling aspect of it,” said Tania Cortez, team mom for the 6th grade girls, 5th grade boys, and the 3rd grade teams.
A full team traveling for around a week will cost around $5000 as a whole.
“It’s very expensive, it’s very competitive,” said Cortez “…but again, because Lovell is very family oriented and he doesn’t turn away nobody and he doesn’t say no to any kid because he believes every kid should have a chance, he’s one of the cheapest, if not the cheapest leagues out there that you can find for single parents, for very low-income families. That’s kind of what he does it for…this gives them the opportunity to at least try out and see what they like.”
For more information, visit downeyballhogs.com.