Print Commissioner Lee a busy bee
Written by Brian Bergner   
Friday, 29 July 2011 00:00

Having been an umpire with Verde Valley Little League since 2003, current league President Jayne Lee admits to having been tagged by a ball or two over the years. “It’s the foul balls that get you,” Lee said Tuesday, July 26, while recalling some of the players she has watched grow up in the Verde Valley’s baseball and softball scene.The hardest-working people are usually the ones who get no credit, no pat on the back on a job well done, no limelight. Jayne Lee, a 49-year-old Cottonwood resident, certainly falls into this category.

In 2008, Lee was named Verde Valley Little League commissioner with the purpose of keeping the league going strong, and improving it whenever she could.

Sitting in the concrete stands just days after the Verde Valley Little League completed its season, Lee was happy to report another successful year.

“We did get the batting cage built, and we finally have a storage place for our equipment needs. We also put up an information case for the public,” Lee said.

“The kids had a great year on the field, too, with a few teams representing Cottonwood at various state tournaments. Our board was fantastic as well. Everyone chipped in and did their part. It’s one of the better Little League years for sure,” Lee added.

The Verde Valley Little League supports the play of over 400 kids from Cottonwood and its surrounding towns.

That’s 400 kids with 400 sets of parents and grandparents, friends and family.

That’s a lot to keep happy for Lee in one of the more thankless jobs in the country. Remember, Little League people are strictly on volunteer pay.

Born in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Lee went to Alta Loma High School before graduating in 1979. Lee never played sports in high school, but did play soccer and softball in the seventh and eighth grades.

“This was the ’70s. This is when girls just started to want to play sports. It was a very rural area too, so there wasn’t much to offer,” Lee said.

Instead of playing Little League softball like so many girls do today, Lee managed to hook on to Miss Softball America, a program for girls to play softball.

“Little League only started introducing softball for girls about 15 years ago,” Lee said sadly.

Lee eventually moved to Cottonwood in 1996 after having three kids and working at a local hospital in San Bernardino, Calif. She decided it was best to move to Cottonwood because it was a better place to raise a family.

Lee didn’t take long to get involved in the area, taking a job at a local hospital in admitting, and working at a family-owned liquor store. Lee also found work as a librarian.

By 1998, Lee decided it was finally time to get back into school and enrolled at Ottawa University Phoenix, a satellite campus for OU in Canada.

After eight long years, Lee graduated with a degree in elementary education in 2005 at the age of 43.

“I was working two jobs, raising three kids, participating in Little League and going to school at night,” Lee said with a big smile and sense of accomplishment.

Lee took most of her degree courses online, but did have to drive to Phoenix twice, sometimes three times a week, to attend class in the last year or so of her schooling.

“I was on the eight-year plan,” Lee laughed. “I know people that don’t have kids, don’t work like I do and still take that long to get a degree.”

As for softball in the Verde Valley, it wasn’t until 1999 the Verde Valley Little League started teams for girls at the age level. By 2008, Lee had done such a good job of getting the softball program off the ground that she was asked to be the commissioner.

She also began umpiring in 2003, something she still does to this day for local Little Leagues and state tournaments.

“I’ve worked several state and regional tournaments. I’m eligible to go to the World Series now if I get picked at the juniors level,” Lee said.

In her spare time, the little she has, Lee likes to go hiking and loves to travel. She recently took a trip to the Grand Canyon where she was able to do the river tour.

Lee also cheers on the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, but said she doesn’t have much time to follow them.

Her greatest free time hobby however is to spend time with family.

“I also like to spend time with family. They are important to me. I don’t follow sports that much any more, just when my kids played them. I live through them,” Lee said.