Call it an act of faith. A year removed from a season wiped out by a pandemic, Sequim Little League volunteers began prepping for the 2021 season with plenty of restrictions and few assurances that they’d ever see games.
Registration was delayed until February — about four months later than normal. Bottles of disinfectant were purchased, along with disposable masks. And while masked-up players as young as 4 and 5 years old began practices in the spring, the league’s scheduler began drawing up plans.
Months later, with an abridged but complete 2021 season for 252 baseball and softball players under their collective belts — plus five all-star teams playing at district tournaments in June and July — the Sequim Little League is ready to celebrate.
“Pretty phenomenal, considering what we had to do,” league president Nick Simpson said last week.
League advocates are hosting a special end-of-the-season celebration on Saturday, July 10, and the whole community is invited, Simpson said.
Starting at noon on Saturday, July 10, league volunteers have concessions (including a cotton candy machine and popcorn), raffles for items such as Seattle Mariners 2022 game tickets, a pitching machine contest based on divisions, and more.
The event, sponsored by Bandy Farms, is capped that evening by a free screening of the popular youth baseball move, “The Sandlot.” Gates open at 8 p.m. and the movie will start about 9 p.m. Concessions will be available for purchase. (Note: Bring a blanket or lawn chair; no pets allowed.)
Unable to host Opening Day ceremonies in both 2020 and 2021, the league wanted to host this end-of-the-season celebration to thank various volunteers and the community for the support, Simpson said.
“They (the coaches and other volunteers) put forth a ton of effort to make everything possible,” he said. “We want everybody to come.”
The movie screening will be at Knapp Field, named for long-time advocate Don Knapp, who passed away in November 2020 and was celebrated by friends and family at a special memorial at the league fields in April.
The family donated $3,000 plus funds raised from concessions that day back to the league, Simpson said, and are donating two snowmobiles for auction at the end-of-season ceremony.
Fittingly, the July 10 event will also feature the first awarding of the Coach Knapp Award, what league representatives say will be an annual honor to one baseball and one softball player for their outstanding sportsmanship and participation. Recipients will get a plaque and a certificate, Simpson said.
Getting the season going
With the 2020 in jeopardy, Sequim Little League reps gave families three options with their registration fees: get a partial refund, donate the money or roll the registration over to 2021. Simpson said a majority (about 70 percent) decided to donate the money.
This year, the league dropped registration fees for most divisions from $85 to $25.
“Just to be able to support every family … (though) we’re never going to turn a kid away,” Simpson said.
The fees paid for caps, and the league provided T-shirts for each team with a number on the sleeve and the back listing the league’s sponsors.
Baseball fell under the state’s “moderate” guidelines for health risks, so initially players had to be masked from when they got out of their vehicles until they got back in, Simpson said. Coaches and spectators alike had to be in masks, while coaches and league safety officer Brenda White and others had to be the “mask police” to make sure people observed the guidelines, he said.
The league provided a safety plan for parents as well, and nearly all complied the rules without conflict, Simpson said.
“If we want a season, this is how it has to happen,” league vice president Cody Owens said.
A few games into the season the restrictions eased; players were allowed to play defense with masks on but had to put them back on before entering the dugout.
“I think the kids took it well,” Simpson said.
Even team pictures were different. Photos were taken individually and then compiled for a team shot, collage-style.
“Kind of goofy … but everybody’s going to remember 2020,” Simpson said.
Despite the changes, the league seemed to rally, Simpson and Owens noted. In addition to a host of volunteers, the league got significant support from the City of Sequim (in particular, public works operations manager Ty Brown), Rick White for field maintenance and the Sequim High baseball and fastpitch program, both of which provided their players to help umpire games this spring.
“I feel like we rose to the occasion,” Simpson said.
Thanks to some local generosity, Sequim Little League is looking at a significant upgrade. Simpson said the league got a $1,000 donation from the Brody Broker team that they converted to a gift certificate to Grey Wolf Lodge, then offered $20 raffle tickets for that certificate that turned into a $16,480 windfall.
Those funds, along with some from the league’s reserves, will go toward replacing 20-year-old-plus scoreboards at James Standard Park that are outdated and don’t work, Simpson said.
Owens said that with working scoreboards the league could host a District 2 tournament.
League reps say they’re well prepared in case the pandemic numbers threaten future seasons.
“If there’s an outbreak … now we know exactly what to do,” Owens said. “Fingers crossed, that does not happen.”
Sequim Little League’s End-of-Season Ceremony
What: Celebration of Little League season, open to whole community
When: Noon, Saturday, July 10
Where: Sequim Little League fields (James S. Standard Park), 124 W. Silberhorn Road
Features: Cotton candy, popcorn, outdoor games, raffles, more
Special event: Screening of “The Sandlot” at 8 p.m. (movie starts about 9 p.m.)
More info: Email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On the web: sequimlittleleague.com