Jerry Gay
Casey Raymond, Bea Franklin and Mason Hoover of the Ballard Plumbing Little League team bow their heads and tip their caps to honor and respect baseball.

For the love of the game: adults volunteer to foster the next generation of baseball players

Ballard is home to the oldest Little League in the City of Seattle. Since 1954, Ballard kids have spent their spring days on the local fields learning how to throw, catch, and bat; making friends; and most of all, falling in love with America's favorite game: baseball.

The Ballard Little League takes great pride in its history, in teaching local children the ideals of good sportsmanship, and creating a fun and positive experience for hundreds of kids.

Some notable alumni of the Ballard Little League include Ballard High School baseball coaches John Lamm, and Jim DuBoise, as well as head softball coach Kyle Grey.

Ballard Little League has always been an all-volunteer-run organization and its coaches, board members, umpires, parents reps, clinic instructors, etc all share one common characteristic: they all love the game.

"It's a great group of volunteers who love baseball and want to make it a great experience for the kids," said Ballard Little League President Patty Lott. "Many in the league have no affiliation to the league other than that they love baseball."

Lott, now in her eighth year as a board member and fourth year as president, is one of those people who are more involved with the league than her kids are.

"I love baseball" she said, adding that she roots avidly for the Mariners, the Rockies, and of course, Ballard High School.

"My son started playing Tee Ball at the Boys and Girls Club when he was five years old. My husband started umping and I somehow ended up doing the uniforms," Lott said. "I later joined the board and eight years later I'm still here. I love doing it."

Lott, however, never played herself.

"Title IX came in when I was a sophomore or junior in high school," she said. "So I never got to play baseball. But I got into baseball when I got married and later with my kids. I learned the sport from the ground up."

In addition to her role as president, Lott also teaches scoring clinics to parents.

"Baseball is such a terrific sport and a nice way for families to spend time together," she said. "For me it's still America's favorite pastime but I don't think it still holds true for the country as a whole."

With the busy streets and safety concerns, Lott said Sandlot pick-up games are a thing of the past.

Ballard formerly had two leagues but over the years, the number of kids playing little league baseball dwindled.

"It's a hard sport to learn to play. There are a lot of skills you have to learn to master," Lott said. "It's also a big time commitment and there are simply more options for kids these days."

Lott also acknowledged the pressure kids feel nowadays to perform well and not disappoint their parents.

"We actively discourage parents playing for their kids and yelling," Lott said. "No adult should spoil the fun for the kids. We make it all about the kids having fun. We look at what's good for the kids and what's going to make this experience meaningful for them. We're more about the kids having fun than winning."

This is why this year's Ballard Little League slogan read, "Join the fun."

That is not to say that winning and competition can't be fun.

"We do host a city tournament every year, the Tournament of Champions (TOC).
Last year one of our teams (Ballard Plumbing) won the TOC trophy for the first time in 11 years," Lott said.

Lott added that a Ballard Little League team has yet to make it to the Little League Baseball World Series but a team did go to regionals once in the 1970s.

Lott's personal goal for the league is not more victories, but rather, more growth.

"I would like to become a bigger league because I think Ballard kids have a lot to offer," she said.

This year has already seen significant growth thanks to the addition of a Tee Ball and Coach Pitch division, allowing kids as young as five years old to play organized baseball.

"We were at 14 teams last year and now we're up to 25," Lott said. "I'm hoping that the growth will move through the age brackets."

Lott said community businesses have been great supporters of the Ballard Little League, with businesses like Fisher Plumbing, Ballard Plumbing, Limback Lumber, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, and Ballard Oil all sponsoring teams.

"The sponsors have been so supportive and enthusiastic, and have stuck with us throughout the years. We're really grateful to have them," Lott said.

Little League season traditionally kicks off with a big jamboree at the beginning of April during which hundreds of kids, ages 5 through 16, line up, tip their cap, and recite the little league pledge: "I trust in God. I love my country. And will respect its laws. I will play fair. And strive to win. But win or lose
I will always do my best."
Written in 1954 by Peter J. McGovern, the pledge is as old as the Ballard Little League itself.
"I always get a little weepy," said Lott.

While the jamboree this year had to be rescheduled due to rain, the Little League season has started and will run through June.

"Just as soon as the weather gets nice, baseball stops," joked Lott.

The upper divisions will play two or three games a week for a total of 22 games, and the younger kids will play eight games, weather permitting.

The Tournament of Champions will take place in June.

Visit ballardll.net or d8u8mpires.org for game schedules and more information.

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