Sports

Love for the Little Leagues: Chevy Youth Baseball fundraiser helps local youth programs succeed

Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet Manager Mike Lawrence shakes hands with Falls Little League coach Brendon van Campen during a clinic with Bucky Jacobsen, at rear, left, for the Chevy Youth Baseball program. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet Manager Mike Lawrence shakes hands with Falls Little League coach Brendon van Campen during a clinic with Bucky Jacobsen, at rear, left, for the Chevy Youth Baseball program.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Watching an afternoon game in the Snoqualmie Valley Little League or Falls Little League, listening to the crack of the bat, the cheer of the players, the calls of the umpire, you’d think it all was effortless.

But behind the scenes, a lot of hard work, volunteer effort and scrapping for donations is required to keep the Valley tradition of youth baseball alive and thriving.

This year, for the second season in a row, Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet helped the two local leagues in fundraising efforts that keep the diamonds shining.

Continuing connection

Chevrolet is recognized on the national level as the “Official Vehicle of Major League Baseball.” The automaker has expanded the support of Major League Baseball down to young players in communities across the country through Chevy Youth Baseball, a grassroots, community outreach program. The program is geared toward bringing the brand together with America’s favorite pastime.

“Baseball is the anchor to every community,” said Leesa McKay, Chaplins’ in-house marketing administrator and outside saleswoman. “No matter how small a town is, it has Little League. We see all those kids out there playing, but I don’t think we all realize actually what it takes to get those kids to play—  I know I didn’t.”

For Chevy Youth Baseball, the carmaker put up two cars, a Chevy Equinox and a Cruise, while also offering service deals and other prizes for a drawing. Local teams got 4,000 tickets to sell for a recommended $5 donation. Leagues keep 100 percent of proceeds raised.

Chevrolet provides a $500 donation to a local team. In a bonus donation, Chaplins stepped it up by kicking in an extra $500 to make sure both leagues and the greater Valley were covered.

“It’s not just North Bend and Snoqualmie,” said McKay. “Being one of the major businesses, we need to support the Valley. This is one way of supporting a large amount of kids.”

Chaplins staff marked this year’s promotion by sponsoring a clinic with local baseball instructor and youth coach Bucky Jacobsen, and plan a pizza party later in the season courtesy of Frankie’s Pizza. They also hand out ball bags and buckets to the teams.

It’s a lot of work organizing the clinics and benefit, but KcKay said that children are helped and parents are grateful.

“This is when they’re little and starting out,” she said. “They need help, too.

A big help

Fundraising successes like the Chevy Youth Baseball program are a good start to meet those long-term needs such as player scholarships, equipment, cage rentals and field work.

In the Snoqualmie Valley league, overall fundraising is up from 2010, but still below past years’ levels. The group hopes to raise as much as $7,000 through ticket sales in order to ensure that every child who wants to play ball can do so.

“It’s been a great fundraiser for us,” said Chris Bennett, Snoqualmie Valley Little League President. The ticket sales make up for fewer donations and sponsorships in a slow economy.

Support from groups like Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet also help Snoqualmie Valley Little League take care of the city fields it uses. For example, the league applied special baked clay to absorb water from the infield—a crucial need in this spring’s rain-out season, when every game counted.

Falls Little League will use the proceeds for field improvements and to backfill its capital fund, replacing much-needed equipment that was stolen when the Alderra Field storage shed was burglarized. Last February, someone stole the league’s mower, public address system and pitching machine.

Fundraisers help get the league back to square one. Chaplins’ efforts, in combination with other sponsors including Claffey’s Painting, helped restore the league following the disastrous break-in.

“My hat’s off to them,” said Falls Little League President Dave Luchtel. “They’re extremely supportive of Little League... We get a lot of great community support.”

Baseball clinic

As part of the fundraiser, youth teams took part in a free skills clinic with former pro player Bucky Jacobsen.

“It’s an unbelievable thing Chevy’s doing,” said Jacobsen, a former Mariners player who opened Bucky’s Baseball Academy at North Bend in 2009. “That goes a long way with Little Leagues like this.”

Chaplins’ fundraiser helped pay for batting cage sessions for league players this spring.

“If you can’t get them inside, you’re going to be behind everybody else,” Jacobsen said.

In May, Jacobsen worked on hitting fundamentals with 10-year-old players.

“I’ve always liked working with kids,” he said. Young people gravitate to his personality, and he in turn enjoys getting them to understand the right and wrong ways.

“Seeing kids pick it up, seeing the lightbulb go off, it’s pretty rewarding,” he said.

As a coach, Jacobsen loves seeing players take and run with his lessons.

“You can see them grow by leaps and bounds.”

Jacobsen works to instill one of the most important lessons in youth baseball: how to move past failure.

“You’re not always going to win,” he said. “Most of the time you’re going to get out. It’s trying to teach somebody that’s 10 or 11 that it’s OK, as long as you worked hard and prepared yourself. You get to wait a couple of innings and try again. Maybe the next inning, you’ll get an opportunity defensively to help your team win.”

Return tickets

Chevrolet will hold the Youth Baseball prize drawing on August 5. Prize tickets are needed back at Chaplins by July 6.

Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet thanks everyone involved in helping with this fundraiser: Bucky’s Baseball Academy’s Bucky Jacobsen, Frankie’s Pizza, Talking Rain, Snoqualmie Valley Little League President Chris Bennett, Falls Little League President David Luchtel, all the coaches, parents and more than 800 local youth who are keeping the dream of local baseball alive.

“Finding out the need and challenges our local leagues had this year, and having kids play, this is pretty sweet that we got the chance to help,” McKay said.

She reminds Valley residents that the fundraiser is a benefit only for Little Leagues — Chaplins receives none of the funds.

“We provide the materials, and left it up to the kids to do the rest,” McKay said. “To skip a coffee at your local stand, or the lunch special one day, may perhaps feel like a great sacrifice. But you will be helping many kids who sleep with their mitts and dream of getting up Saturday morning to go and play some ball.”

• Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet is located at 106 Main Ave. N.; call the dealership at (425) 888-8239. Learn more about Chevrolet Youth Baseball at www.chevroletbaseball.com.

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