PENDLETON — It has become a yearly tradition for Pendleton’s 12U Little League Softball All-Stars to win the state tournament and make the trip to San Bernardino, California, to compete at the Little League Western Regional Tournament.
When the current 12U All-Stars clinched its spot at the regional last week, it marked the third straight year that the Pendleton team will represent the state of Oregon. That means it has also become a yearly tradition of frantic fundraising by the Pendleton coaches and Little League Association to raise enough money in a week’s time to pay for travel and lodging for more than a dozen players and coaches at the tournament that runs from July 21-26.
And that is not an easy task. Basing the goal off of the two previous years, Pendleton coaches Scott Wilson, Gordy Schumacher and Brandon Krigbaum projected they’d need more than $10,000 to pay for the entire trip. And with the team needing to depart Pendleton on Wednesday, that left roughly five days to put the funds together.
“From when our game ended on Thursday to right now, we had to get some money together really, really quick,” Wilson said on Tuesday. “It was a pretty big job.”
But just as the two previous years, the team easily met its goal thanks to the generous community of Pendleton. Between various fundraisers such as a car wash and Tuesday night’s spaghetti dinner and raffle at the Eagles Lodge in downtown Pendleton, as well as donations from various businesses locally and statewide, Wilson says the team can enjoy the trip comfortably this week.
“This community, I’ll tell you what,” Wilson said. “This community and the money they throw at these youth organizations is incredible. I cannot believe how much money we were able to raise so far to get these girls down there. The fact that Pendleton did what they have done is incredible.”
A few of the players, who served as waiters, dishwashers and ticket takers at Tuesday evening’s dinner, described the support from people in the community as a “blessing.”
“It’s amazing that we have people behind us to help us,” said Lea Wilson. “It shows that there really are kind people in the world.”
The Pendleton All-Stars, which will be playing as Team Oregon at the regional tournament, fly to California on Thursday and plays its first game on Saturday against Wyoming at 3 p.m. at Al Houghton Stadium. The Pendleton team went 2-2 at the regional last year and was ousted by the eventual champion Utah while going 3-2 in 2016.
Wilson said that the goal is to make this the best showing for Pendleton yet, and that the coaching staff has reached out to coaches of the previous regional teams and have learned that “you never know what to expect.”
“There’s some teams there that are real solid and I look forward to playing them and competing,” Wilson said. “And I know the girls are super excited. They know the reason we’re going down there is to compete and try to win another tournament, and that’s our No. 1 goal.
“We plan on going down there and playing five or six softball games and playing for the championship.”
And when the team isn’t grinding it out on the softball field, it will likely use some down time for some fun activities such as a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm amusement park, soak up the sun at the beach, and perhaps even cool off at a water park.
But when the trip is over and the team returns home, Wilson said that the girls will let the community know just how much they appreciated the support.
“I think when we get back and have some free time, these girls are going to be writing some thank you notes,” Wilson said. “And they’re going to have a lot of them to write.”
Contact Eric at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.