Sitting in the living room of Bill Jex’s home and his love for softball is obvious.
His porch is cluttered with old softballs, bases, bats and jerseys and his living room is sprinkled with more softball gear to be donated to another softball league.
Jex has one philosophy when it comes to softball: kids first. And it is that belief that has helped him rebuild the softball league from the ground up in the Town of Smithers.
“I think seeing some of the kids grow and knowing that the clinics we’ve done for the umpires and seeing how that’s helped kids grow is probably the best thing,” he said.
After six years of running the Smithers Junior Softball League, Jex is stepping down as president.
He took over the league with a friend, but has since taken on any and all responsibilities of running the league including sponsorship and administrative work, such as registering with Softball B.C., getting umpire certification and establishing the town’s first girls softball team.
“I think we’ve achieved all the goals,” said the Ontario native.
“When we started out, we wanted the league to be solvent, so we needed sponsorship and we’ve accomplished that. We wanted to make sure we were a part of Softball B.C.’s long-term development program and we are. This is the second time we’ve had teams going down to the B.C. Summer Games.
“Terrace and Kitimat have always been the strong, powerhouses in terms of softball — that’s not the way it is anymore. They have some skilled players for sure, but as an organization, I think we’re in really good shape,” said Jex.
The league has almost doubled in size over the past few years to 180 from 85 kids on average every year, he added.
Joe De Gisi, equipment coordinator of the league, said Jex has virtually been a one-man-show running the league over the years.
“He figures out what needs to be done and how to do it and those are the kinds of people you need volunteering in a community organization,” said De Gisi.
“He has lots of energy and he puts all that energy toward people who play ball.”
In the upcoming season, Jex is hoping to take a more back-seat approach.
“Next year is my youngest son’s last season playing ball. I really wanted to coach and that’s sort of what’s pushed this along because if I don’t do it now, then I would miss that opportunity.”
His wife Diana, who also played softball at the national level, believes it’s time for him to take on another role in the league.
“I’m excited to see him step back and give back,” she said. “He’s always in the back of everything. To be frontline and on the field with the kids again — he’s a great coach. He won’t leave it, he’s just stepping back a bit.”
De Gisi agreed, adding Jex will never stop being involved in the game.
“We know that he loves the game too,” said De Gisi. “He’s not going to walk away from the game of ball because he’s stepped away as president. We’ll be looking at him for continued inspiration.”
Jex said he’s received half a dozen emails from parents looking to get involved in the executive.
And he does have some words of wisdom for the next president.
“The next president should believe in the kids-first approach,” he said.
“Ultimately, everything that is done in the league should be done to benefit the players or the youth umpires and if you have that as your philosophy everything else just falls into place.”