BRANDON — This week we chat with Heather Conkey, who grew up traveling the country as the daughter of an Army officer, spending her high school years in Duck Dynasty country — Calhoun and West Monroe, Louisiana — before settling in Florida. She attended the University of Tampa and married Doug Conkey. She has a son, Douglas, who will be 13 next month and step daughters Jessica and Ashley Conkey, both in college. Conkey has worked for a distribution company in Tampa for the past 14 years. But on her off time, especially this time of year, it’s all about baseball. Her son, Douglas, a love of volunteering and staying busy led her to the North Brandon Little League fields when he was just 6 years old. For the past seven years, she has served on various positions on the board of directors for the all-volunteer Little League on Kingsway Road, and as board president for the past three years.
Conkey spends 16-18 hours a week during fall ball and regular season coordinating the league’s activities with Hillsborough County, which owns the park where games are played, she communicates with Little League International, attends board meetings and coordinates activities at the park. For the most part, she says, it’s all about the fun and the love of baseball.
Q: How did you get involved in North Brandon Little League and why?
Answer: When my son first started playing T-ball at North Brandon Little League, I thought about how much work must go into running a successful Little League organization. So, I sought out a member of the board and offered to assist in any way I could. I felt the need to contribute after seeing so many people giving their time to the program.
Q: What do you believe little league baseball does for children, as far as building character?
Answer: If I’ve learned only one thing during my time at NBLL it’s that baseball can be a very humbling game. The kids learn early on that you have to work hard to be successful. I believe Little League provides an environment where all kids have an opportunity to play and be a part of a team in which they are contributing to something bigger than themselves. Little League promotes the building of strong character in today’s youth with their mission of producing superior citizens, not just superior athletes. Players are encouraged to support and respect their teammates before, during and after the game.
Q: What is the greatest reward of working with North Brandon Little League?
Answer: I would have to say that the most immediate reward is seeing families and friends enjoying their time together at the ball park. In addition, I’ve met and developed long lasting relationships with so many of the great people in the community and very much consider that a reward as well.
Q: Has North Brandon Little League produced any stars?
Answer: Oh we have! North Brandon is proud to say we have had three players from our park make it all the way to the Major Leagues. Currently playing for the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Joyce has made a huge impact on our program by raising over $20,000 to improve our park through baseball camps he hosts annually. Also an NBLL alum, Ryan Rayburn, whose name you’ll find on the Cleveland Indians roster. Long-time MLB player Chone Figgins played Little League baseball at North Brandon as well before going on to play 11 years in the Majors with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and then the Seattle Mariners.
Q: Boston Red Sox or Tampa Bay Rays?
Answer: I always root for the hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays, unless of course they’re playing my Miami Marlins!
— Yvette Hammett