Klamath-Trinity Little League Brings Together 200 Youth

Max Hodge gets walked to first base during a game held in Hoopa on Saturday, May 19. KT Little League provides opportunities for children ages 4-16 to learn to work in a team environment and develop interpersonal skills while having fun. / Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune.

By Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune

A fourth-grader pitches the ball trying with all his might to get a strike. Believe it or not, it does happen from time to time. But, most of the time, if a player makes it to first base it’s because he walked there after four bad pitches.

Little league is fun to watch. Little boys and girls squeeze their bats while puckering their lips. They throw their helmets on accident. They sing cheers from the dugout while slobbering sunflower seeds out of their mouth. It’s all about developing their personal playing style. They want the walk, they want the pitch, they want the hit, they want to feel home plate under their feet. They are part of a team.

Rod Mendes has coached little league teams for more than 30 years. And, now he’s the Klamath-Trinity Little League board president. KTLL is the oldest chartered little league in District 26, which is Humboldt and DelNorte counties. It was established in 1975. KTLL convenes kids all the way from Orleans to Burnt Ranch and beyond.

This season there are 18 teams; five T-ball teams; three major league baseball teams; four minor league baseball teams; one senior girls softball team; three major league girls softball teams and two minor league girls softball teams. Each team has about 12 to 15 children on their roster.

All team coaches and board presidents are volunteers.

“KTLL provides opportunities for children ages 4-16 to learn to work in a team environment, develop interpersonal skills and how to be successful in society,” Mendes said. “The benefit is the coaches and volunteers get an opportunity to work with their local children and mentor them, setting an example about how to interact and behave. It fulfills the whole team concept. It’s not just for children, it’s for volunteers too.”

KTLL has agreements with the Hoopa Tribe, the school district, the U.S. Forest Service and the Willow Creek Community Services District to use various fields throughout the region. Recently the boy’s field in Hoopa, actually owned by KTLL, but also a park of Pookey’s Park, got new backboards and bases.

Candystick Park in Willow Creek was built in the early 1970s and is still a favorite hotspot for some good ol’ baseball action.

“It costs around $15K to run the league and to provide the basic equipment, uniforms, baseballs,” Mendes said. “We run on donations, grants and fees that we charge the kids to play.”

Mendes said that the League pays for its charter with Little League International, district fees, uniforms, bats, balls and all of the gear. A good year, he said, the League will end the season with about $5,000 that can be used to start up the next season.

He also said many parents are not paying their fees and that paying fees is an important factor in keeping the league available for local youth.

It’s against League policy to turn children away, however, Mendes said it’s important for families to understand that if they don’t pay their fees, then other families are supporting those children.

Two weeks ago some parent volunteers  found the snack bar at Candystick Park unlocked and burglarized. They believe the burglars used the league’s own garbage bags to strip the concession stand of hot dogs, nachos, candy, drinks and cash that had been stashed away.

“Whatever low life dirt bag responsible for this is stealing from the children in this community,” Mindy Lovel said. Lovel volunteers because her grandchildren are players in the League. “It’s been three or four years since we’ve got hit like this. I’m guessing it’s a whole new group of kids who don’t have any respect.”

The burglary occurred on the evening or night of Thursday, May 10. If anybody has information they are asked to contact the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

“That’s what happens when you don’t get your children involved in things like little league and youth football,” Lovel said.

The KTLL season will last through the month of May and the first week of June.

“The most rewarding part is watching those kids go through the different stages of the League in the different divisions and watching them blossom into ball players,” Mendes said. “And, watching that next generation of ball players come up.

Watch them make that play, catch that ball. They’re learning the game.”

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May 23rd, 2012

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