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Winning is easy. Getting to the game site is hard.

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1990332946_f54cd3f286Need ride to South Williamsport, Pa. Will help with gas.

When a local baseball or softball team finds its way to one of the many national tournaments going on this time of year, it’s a great accomplishment that the players, their parents and coaches instantly know will be something special that they’ll remember forever. The final out in the game earning that tournament bid is a moment of euphoria, of pure, unadulterated joy…

…killed the moment someone starts thinking about the travel bill.

It can easily cost $10,000 to $15,000 to get a Little League team, its coaches and its families to the tournament site and back, as well as pay for food and lodging while they’re there. Maybe more. Some leagues try to pick up some of the cost. But what more often happens is an orgy of last-minute fundraising, whether through newspaper advertisements, Facebook appeals, shaking the money can at intersections, or selling a few nonessential organs from the kid who plays right field.

Unlike travel teams, which build tournaments into the cost of playing, the local all-star teams that make up Little League, Cal Ripken League, American Legion and other playoff rosters didn’t exist before the postseason, and often their local leagues didn’t build a trip to the national finals into the budget.

Such as what happend with the Evergreen Little League in Vancouver, Wash., caught by surprise when its 15-16 team won a trip to the Senior Baseball Western Regionals in Ontario, Calif.  From the Columbian newspaper:

On Tuesday, a group of all-stars from Evergreen Little League were on top of the world — having won a state championship.

A day later, they felt the harsh sting of today’s economy.

If the players and their families don’t raise a total of $4,000 to $6,000 by Sunday, the team might not go to the tournament, Evergreen Little League president Kyle Smith said. …

The regional tournament will include 11 teams representing nine states. Evergreen is scheduled to play four games beginning Wednesday. If it qualifies, it would then move into elimination play. The tournament champion will advance to the Little League Senior Baseball World Series in Maine.

“I’m not that emotional a guy, but I was breaking down in tears a couple of times today,” said Greg Stegmaier, manager of the Evergreen team. He noted that some of the players’ families are out of work, and that just traveling to state at Bothell High School was a hardship.

As it now stands, the team — 12 players and three coaches — plans to rent two vans and drive to the tournament, leaving early Monday. …

Smith said that Little League Inc., will reimburse the league for travel mileage to the tournament, but that those funds won’t be paid to the league until October. Evergreen doesn’t have the funds now to pay for the trip.

No surprise, the league raised enough money — with its players washing cars instead of practicing — as of Monday to fly the team to California for the tournament. But who knows what’s going to happen if Evergreen wins the regionals. Getting from Vancouver, Wash., to Maine isn’t cheap.

As the Columbian story notes, generally leagues cover (or reimburse) travel costs for the team members and coaches. But the players’ families are often on their own. The local leagues try to do what they can, including organizing fundraisers, but parents have to shell out their own thousands of dollars (not counting the cost of any unpaid vacation time if they’ve used up their allotment) if they want to see their child play, or are freaking out over their 11-year-old being 1,000 miles away with no parent around.

However, somehow they find a way. From the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer:

Heath Corbett is coach of the Phenix City girls fastpitch 12-year-old softball all-stars. The state champs earned the right to go to West Virginia to play in a Southeast Regional last week. The team was knocked out of the tournament Saturday.

“It’s not the best of times economically,” Corbett said.

“I have found, however, that parents will do what they’ve go to do. It’s a wonderful memory of the kids, and parents are going to make that memory happen.”

Written by rkcookjr

August 4, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in parenting, Sports

Tagged with , ,