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Filling stomachs and the coffers, too

Liberty Baseball Club sells pizzas while helping the NL Pantry
Brian Leibold and Bill Bryce put together an order while Matt Zacek pulls up the next one, and Brent Smith looks on Saturday, Feb. 20, during pick up of pizzas ordered as a fundraiser for the Liberty Lightning Baseball Club. The 7-14 youth baseball program sold pizzas, made by Zacek and his staff, to support the club and also generate donations for the North Liberty Community Pantry.

NORTH LIBERTY– Almost everywhere you looked, there were stacks of pizzas, at least 980 of them, neatly and carefully piled on tables, racks, in large coolers.
And they were all going out the door in a six-hour period over two days to fill stomachs and generate some funds for the Liberty Lightning Baseball Club.
The club partnered with Matt Zacek, owner of Z’s Catering and BBQ in North Liberty, for the fundraiser, which saw club members selling preorders for the take-and-bake pizzas over the past several weeks. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20 and 21, were pick-up days at Z’s.
“We got them all put together and we’ll be loading them in cars, the coaches will be meeting and greeting the people, and handing out the pizzas,” Zacek said, explaining crafting the pizzas began on Wednesday, Feb. 17. “We just like helping out the community, that’s been Z’s Catering’s mission since we started. We have a separate non-profit that works with kids teaching them culinary skills, and we haven’t been able to do much of that during the pandemic, so we’re finding other avenues to be out in the community and help out as best we can. We’ve done some smaller fundraisers with church youth groups and other single baseball teams, so this is the first really large-scale test of our abilities.”
As cars would pull up outside his shop, a runner would get the person’s name and Zacek would pull out their order form and call out to coaches and other volunteers, who would then stack and box up the order.
Tom Cronk, head coach for the Liberty High varsity baseball program and an organizer of the club, talked about the fundraiser and the program it was supporting.
“We’ve got a youth baseball program. Baseball is huge in our community, and the high school’s trying to play a big part in that so we’ve started our club and we’re here to support local business,” he said. The club is in its second year and after starting with 7-12 year-old teams, it will expand to 13 and 14-year-olds, which Cronk said is pretty standard for club baseball. And, not only does the club nurture a love of baseball and give kids an opportunity to play the sport, but it also exists to develop players for bigger and better things as they get older.
“There’s lots of organizations (playing youth baseball) but we’re a true feeder program in that we want all kids that are going to Liberty, and we’re trying to build pride in the high school, pride in our baseball team, and then understand that hopefully kids that start at 7 will start learning the things that we’re teaching at the high school level so that by the time they get to me as the high school coach, they’re familiar with the things we teach, and that they’re ready to grow, and that we can build a really successful high school program,” Cronk said. “We’re all North Liberty people and we want our kids to understand how we talk and how we teach, and what we’re doing so by the time they get to high school we can work on more advanced things, because we’ve already got the basics down.”
Practice has already started for the 2021 season in rented indoor facilities, “So this money helps pay for that,” Cronk said. “Right now, we’re going twice a week. My rule-of-thumb has been, once we get through the Super Bowl, now it’s time to start baseball season. We’ll get about six weeks of indoor practice and then hopefully once spring break hits, we can get outside.”
The competition season will run through late June to mid-July, he said. “It’s a nice little six-month season, and some of our teams will go on and play in the fall.”
I want kids to play lots of sports, but if they don’t like football or don’t have anything to do, fall baseball is better than sitting on the couch. As parents, we’ve got to keep kids involved and active, and hopefully they find something they like other than sitting and playing video games,” said Cronk, who is also a physical education teach at Liberty High.
In addition to raising money for the program, the organizers were also asking for people to drop off food and other donations for the North Liberty Community Pantry.
“Matt’s been great to work with,” Cronk said, “And then it’s just a win-win for everybody involved, and I’m really excited I’ve got a group of people that’ve been willing to put it all together, and it’s really been great.”
“It went great so we’ll definitely be up for doing it again,” said Zacek.