Sports

Lower Valley league ready to play ball

CARNATION - Eager Snoqualmie Valley North Little League players brought their parents, family members and friends out to the first-ever Grand Slam Jam at Tolt Middle School's baseball fields last Saturday for the 2001 season kickoff. But they weren't just there to get their pictures taken. It was carnival time.

Board members, coaches and volunteers were there selling tickets, getting soaked in a dunk tank and running various booths and attractions in an effort to help ring in the new Little League season.

The weather provided the perfect setting for a genuine baseball photo. It had been raining most of the day, which gave the dirt in the fields plenty of time to saturate into a fine mix of mud, ready to stain any baseball uniform with which it came into contact.

All the teams had received new uniforms this year, and one of the booths featured the old uniforms, which were being sold for $5 each to remind players and supporters of times past.

The dunk tank seemed popular among young teens. Kids lined up with their dollar bills ready to throw a few balls into the bullseye that would lower their favorite coach into the frigid waters. SVNLL secretary Dan MacMillan stood close by in a yellow raincoat with his bucket, trying to fetch some warmer water from the concession stand for the Little League coach being dunked.

"That's probably the biggest money maker of anything when the coaches get in," MacMillan said.

Popular among the younger children was the 24-foot-tall Captain Hook inflatable slide that seemed to take center stage. The 1,600-pound mass of air had to be placed on a large grassy area away from the games and concession stand. Little kids took off their muddy shoes and slid down the 33-foot-long descent on tarps while volunteers kept the slides clean with an occasional wet-down with the hose.

An inflatable pitching cage sat across from the slide that sparked plenty of interest as well.

Admission for the event was reasonable for a day of fun at $7 for one child all day, or $10 for a family pack. The price included all the games and toys, with the exception of the dunk tank.

Jim Horton, executive vice president of the SVNLL board, said the vision for the event started off small and kept growing as the board members put their ideas together.

The ideas for the event eventually grew to include a basketball throw, fishing game, dart throw, ring toss, milk-can knock down, bean-bag toss and even a cake walk.

Kids flocked to the cake-walk booth. Conditions were damp and muddy and the octagonal shaped bases that acted as stopping points were barely visible in the mucky mud, but the kids did not seem to mind.

Music from the 1950s and songs from the movie "Grease" played on loud speakers.

The face-painting booth also seemed to attract a lot of attention among the younger crowd. Volunteer face painter Samantha Stedman, who was wearing her new Little League uniform, helped man the booth.

"Come one, come all, get your face painted and have a ball," Stedman called out laughing. "Hey, that rhymes!"

Stedman said they had been painting a lot of baseballs and butterflies on peoples' faces, and added that people "really like the color blue."

She said she liked to draw the art freehand, but she could also use engraved stamps and then fill the inside of the designs with colorful face paint.

Kids also collected prizes for winning the various games. Three tickets won Nerds candy, hacky sacks, an assortment of miniature stuffed animals, baseballs and soccer yo-yos. The inflatable baseball bat was the hottest item and could be earned by cashing in 10 tickets.

The event also featured a home-run hitting contest, which kept many of the teen-agers busy.

The Cedarcrest High School baseball team was supposed to play a game on the field next to all the booths, but it was rained out. The Washington weather did not deter Valley residents from coming out to support Little League though. Approximately 100 people had already shown up within the first few hours of the 10 a.m. start time.

The SVNLL has 43 teams and 525 kids ages 5 to 14 years old playing T-ball, baseball and softball this year.

MacMillan said the board hopes that this will be the primary fundraiser for the league in coming years.

"We're trying to unify the Valley," MacMillan said. "Collectively, there are hundreds of hours that go into this."

Susan Porter, who is on the board of directors for the Snoqualmie Valley Youth Soccer Association, volunteered in the Little League information booth, which was there for sign-ups, to inform parents about the league and also to sell raffle tickets for Mariners' games, rounds of golf and gift baskets.

MacMillan said all the proceeds from the Grand Slam Jam will go into the general fund that helps pay for the rental of the booths and games, new uniforms, school athletic fields and anything else that's needed to keep the league running.

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