Sports

Chevy Youth Baseball: Chaplins North Bend drive helps Little Leagues succeed

Members of the Snoqualmie Valley Little League accept an extra $500 donation from Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet, during the Chevy Youth Baseball fundraiser, June 12 at Fall City
Members of the Snoqualmie Valley Little League accept an extra $500 donation from Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet, during the Chevy Youth Baseball fundraiser, June 12 at Fall City's Aldarra Field. Benefit ticket sales continue through July 16, helping the Snoqualmie Valley and Falls Little Leagues.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

The economy shouldn’t affect baseball. But it does.

Sluggish fundraising seasons had two Valley Little Leagues wondering how they were going to pay for needed field repairs and scholarships for players.

Luckily for them, Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet stepped up this summer in the Chevy Youth Baseball drive.

Players in the Snoqualmie Valley Little League and Falls Little League are selling tickets to win a new Chevy vehicle. Sponsored leagues received 2,000 fundraiser entry tickets to distribute for a suggested donation of $5 per ticket; leagues keep 100 percent proceeds raised.

At the end of the fundraiser, four grand prize winners will be able to select their choice of either a Chevrolet Malibu or Chevrolet Equinox. Additional prizes can also be won.

“What a great thing for Chevy to do for Falls,” said Julie Chappell, manager for the league’s Astros Softball Crazy 8 team.

The Falls Little League will use proceeds from the fundraiser to enhance playing fields

Typically, the Falls league, which serves Snoqualmie and the Lower Valley, uses fundraisers to keep fees low and offset field costs. This season, the group was unable to recruit a fundraising chairperson.

“We were afraid we’d have to raise our rates to cover costs,” said Debbi Luchtel, board secretary for Falls Little League. The board decide to keep fees flat, in hopes that something would come their way.

“Imagine our surprise when we were approached by Chaplins,” Luchtel said. “It was the answer to our worries.”

Valley connection

“This is really about the community we live in and the people we interact with,” said Wes Dover, treasurer for Snoqualmie Valley Little League.

Dover’s league struggled with fundraising this year due to the economy. Dollars were down, and an annual golf scramble fell through.

The Chevy Youth Baseball promotion came as a welcome surprise.

“We’ve tried to put all out efforts into this, because it’s an incredible promotion,” Dover said. “We’re very thankful to Chevy for bringing this to us.”

“Our ability to fundraise is what fuels the league,” Dover said.

Fundraisers help train umpires and provide gear and uniforms for the league.

Little League families frequently step up to support school athletic benefits. Now, others can return the favor.

“We’re asking for support so these kids can continue to play,” with safe equipment and new uniforms, “like their heroes,” Dover said.

After all, today’s youth players will be tomorrow’s teen athletes and eventually, tomorrow’s parents and coaches.

“It’s continuity,” Dover said.

Falls Little League president Dave Luchtel said his long term goals for Aldarra Field include a field turf infield, which would allow more games to be played in inclement weather, easing the league schedule. Also eyed for the future are an expansion to more league fields.

Getting involved

The Falls League, like Snoqualmie Valley Little League, also provides scholarships to many players’ families.

Fundraising successes like the Chevy Youth Baseball program are a good start to meet those long-term needs.

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 youth baseball 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.”

Chevy Youth Baseball offered a way to help reach out to the baseball community.

“Our Valley encompasses a lot of families and kids,” McKay said. “I don’t think that we realize how many that is. We are supporting two of the leagues — you realize that the reach is great.”

“Finding out the need and challenges our local leagues had this year with scholarships 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,” she 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.”

Ball clinic

Participating youth baseball leagues receive equipment and monetary donations, tickets to games and invitations to exclusive instructional clinics. In the Valley, this includes a free baseball clinic for young players.

About 90 players turned out to a skills clinic that former pro player Bucky Jacobsen held Wednesday, June 23, at Aldarra field. Talking Rain of Preston provided water for the clinic, while Frankie’s Pizza of North Bend donated 20 pizzas.

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

Jacobsen saw promise in the young people at the clinic, most of whom hailed from local all-star teams.

“They’re picking up everything I’m putting down,” he said.

Emily Webb, 11, with the Snoqualmie 9-10 girls All-Star team, learned a backhanded catch.

“It’s a speed thing, to get the ball to the base quicker,” she said.

Webb has been playing ball since age 5, and loves the game.

Jacobsen worked 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.”

Jacobsen started his clinics to help focus the sport in the Valley.

“If I have something I can give, baseball knowledge, I’d like to spread it out,” said Jacobsen, who would like to see a dominant high school program grow in the Valley.

“There are going to be a couple of kids who have it in their heart that this is what they want to do,” he said. Some may go far enough to achieve a scholarship. “If they go beyond that, it’s obviously a blessing. For me, it’s about keeping a love of the game.”

Get tickets

Chevy Youth Baseball tickets will be sold at the District 9 10-11 Softball All Star Tournament, July 3 to 11 at the Mount Si High School baseball fields and Centennial Fields Park in Snoqualmie.

Tickets are also available from Little League managers and at Farmhouse Market in Fall City. Contact Falls Little League coordinator Sarah Riggs at sarah@rsvpseattle.com for more information.

The leagues are also working with Chaplins in Chevy’s ‘Building Dreams and Diamonds’ fundraiser, in which baseball programs can win a home field makeover.

To enter, residents visit www.chevybaseball.com and enter their zip codes. Five winners will be drawn from the zip codes selected, so communities that enter the most zip codes have a better chance to win.

People who enter zip codes have a chance to win a new Chevy Malibu, Traverse, Equinox or Silverado.

The Building Dreams and Diamonds contest ends July 16.

As a bonus donation, Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet presented two $500 checks to each league on Saturday, June 12, at Aldarra Field. The checks were in addition to the ticket sales fundraiser.

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 Rob Stevens, 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.

“This event is about the kids in the Valley and baseball,” said Frank Protzman, general manager at Chaplins North Bend Chevrolet.

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