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Mar, 2018

Gorena, Jr. makes a difference as newly appointed Board member

For South Zone, Colt/Palomino Division Director Abel Gorena, Jr., that first practice for Harlingen, Texas Bronco League in 1977 seems like yesterday. At the age of 18, he was introduced as the assistant coach for the league, the one that he played in growing up. As his new team took to the practice field for infield/outfield, he hit a grounder and the fielder booted the ball on the throw. He quickly realized, after further investigation, that none of the players on the team even knew how to hold a ball correctly. So, after a deep breath, he started from square one to teach the players the basic fundamentals. It was then and there that he found a love for baseball, specifically coaching.

“When I first started coaching, that’s when I realized I can make a difference in this league,” said Gorena, Jr. “I can make a difference in this organization. I can make a difference in somebody’s life. I gravitated more toward not necessarily teaching the game of baseball, but teaching the game of life.”

Gorena, Jr. explained that his local community was not always the most supportive of young kids, mainly because people lived poorly and could not afford gloves or shoes or, sometimes, even food. As a single, 18-year-old kid who was fortunate enough to have a job, Gorena, Jr. made it his mission to give back so that the children of his local community could enjoy the game that he had come to love.

Often times, Gorena, Jr. said he would take it upon himself to pay for these children’s needs, as he felt a calling to become a mentor. He vividly remembers an occasion in which a child approached him and told him he couldn’t play because he couldn’t fundraise because he did not have parents. The child lived with his grandmother, who could not afford to support all that went into playing on an organized baseball team. Gorena, Jr. offered to fundraise for him and pay for whatever the child needed. He said it was heartwarming to hear from the boy, later in life, that he still remembered his generosity and was thankful for it to this day.

“Once again, you make a difference,” said Gorena, Jr. “You positively impacted somebody’s life. You take them out of the environment where they could’ve found drugs, gangs, but no, you just took that time. Even if you save just one kid or two kids, that’s great, that’s fantastic. I have a good rapport with kids. I don’t know why, because I actually got married late in life.”

Gorena, Jr. mentioned that he found his perfect match, his wife Aleida, 10 years ago, through a mutual friend. Aleida’s husband had been tragically killed in a car accident, and she raised her four children. They hit it off, and after two months of meeting each other for the first time, they were married. It was then that her four children became their four children, and Gorena, Jr. said they call him their dad to this day. Living in Harlingen, Gorena, Jr. said the two now have eight grandchildren, including their “miracle grandchild,” Nicholas “Cuatro” Doñes, who earlier this year completed his last treatment for leukemia.

From his coaching days, Gorena, Jr. said he vividly recalls the experience of his team participating in the 1983 Bronco World Series in St. Joseph’s, Missouri, because players were making incredible plays that you usually only see in the Major Leagues. It was during this experience that he met a person, who he calls, to this day, a “true friend,” fellow South Zone Division Director Arnulfo Banda.

“I’ve seen his kids come up in life,” said Gorena, Jr. “We’ve been on vacations together with his family. He’s been a great mentor in baseball, but also life. He and his wife, they are more like family to me. Especially when I was single, I used to go to their house every day.”

Unfortunately for Gorena, Jr., it wasn’t long after that trip to the Bronco World Series that his company, Sears, transferred him to Dallas and then to Austin. It was during this time that he had to give up coaching. But in 2000, he was transferred back to the Rio Grande Valley, and it was then that Banda talked him in to joining PONY as a Section Director. He quickly worked his way up to a Region Director, a position that is responsible for serving as an official for PONY sanctioned tournaments. He served as the Tournament Director for the 2016 Mustang World Series, and most recently, he was last year’s Tournament Director for the South Zone Colt and Palomino Championships.

“I was always told, when things go well, you’re there, but people don’t really know you’re there,” said Gorena, Jr. “You know you did well when other directors commend you for the way you ran the tournament. Parents come up to you and say they’ll be back because they thoroughly enjoyed the experience and were treated fairly. There was no disrespect, everyone followed the rules. I take great pride in running a great tournament, but I still miss getting my hands dirty being a coach.”

Earlier this year, Gorena, Jr. was nominated to join the PONY Board of Directors as a Colt/Palomino Division Director for the South Zone. He said the experience of participating in his first-ever Board Meeting in October really opened his eyes to the vital role he and the Board play in the decision-making that impacts the world of PONY Baseball and Softball. He believes that the Board is moving in the right direction because of the tight-knit relationships that they have all formed because they are in it to do what they believe is right for the greater good of youth baseball and softball players.
“The people that we have on the board are just very, very good people,” said Gorena, Jr. “They are very good administrators. They are very positive in what they want to see PONY go through. We all come together for the good of PONY Baseball and Softball.”

He said that he has set the goal for himself to eventually find a title on the Board and he wants to bring someone on-board as well. But for now, as a director, he has his sights set on resurrecting the Colt/Palomino program across the South Zone.

“I recognize right now that, as the Colt/Palomino Division Director, I have a tough job, but that’s what I want to build,” said Gorena, Jr. “I really want our Colt/Palomino program to become strong like it was four-five-six years ago, and work with high school coaches and parents to get more players participating in a local league and forming even more leagues. Let’s get them started in March, play on weekends and hold mini tournaments. I want to build this program up again.”

Decades of Gorena Jr.’s life have been spent with PONY, either as a player, coach, director or overall good guy who is there for the betterment of children’s lives in South Texas. He believes in the PONY mission of protecting our nation’s youth, which means making a difference to go the extra mile, and following PONY Baseball’s rules, which are in accordance with Major League Baseball.

“The inspiration is still very strong,” said Gorena, Jr. “I always told myself that the day that I just become tired is the day that I’ll walk away. But I just don’t have that right now. I’m waiting for next year thinking what can I do now to make it better.”

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