Nothing says spring like a game of baseball – hot dogs, cheering fans and that satisfying crack as the bat strikes the ball. Even better is when it’s local kids playing for the sheer love of the game and hanging out with friends. The Centralia Les Schwab stores have supported the Centralia Little League for years, including sponsoring the Les Schwab Field. This year, they want to really encourage everyone to come out and celebrate opening day on Saturday, March 25, at Borst Park. The day starts at 9:00 a.m. and games begin at noon.

“We are excited for this year’s season and want to show our support in any way we can,” says Mark Witham, Centralia Les Schwab Store Manager. “We have always shown support for many community athletics and the Little League program is really close to our hearts.”

Matt Stevens, who is in Sales & Service at the Chehalis Les Schwab, participated in Little League when he was young and now his son, who is seven, does as well. He says that while many people see Les Schwab as an out-of-town company because they are based out of the Bend, Oregon, area, they really support local community programs, especially youth.

Les Schwab Little League
Brendan Stevens, son of Matt Stevens who works at the Chehalis Les Scwab, has been participating in the Centralia Little League since he was just four years old. He loves seeing how far he can hit the ball and hanging out with this friends. Photo courtesy: Matt and Danielle Stevens

As a company we sponsor many community programs,” Matt says. “Sponsoring Little League and helping young kids be active and learn important life skills is just part of who we are. We also buy auction animals from 4-H every year. It’s just what we like to do.”

The Centralia Little League has teams for children of all ages, starting with t-ball for 4-year-olds, all the way to Major League for 9-12-year olds. Try-outs were held mid-February and games start on March 11 for Major League before the official Grand Opening Day.

Kelley Christensen, president and board member of the local Little League, has been involved with the club for many years. Her two sons played up through the league, starting with t-ball, which she herself coached. She was vice president for the past two years and a players agent the years before that. Kelley can’t stress enough the importance of programs like Little League to the children in our community.

“Little League is a great program that teaches these kids so much more than just baseball skills,” she says. “It teaches them leadership, respect, how to get along with others, how to be a team player and it just brings people together. We sit together on Friday nights watching the games. Our stands are filled with people from all walks of life. And it’s fun. They all cheer on their kids and their team. It’s a positive thing for the kids to participate in, instead of going in the wrong direction.”

Centralia Little League
Little League is not just about baseball, but teaching children at a very young age to respect each other and themselves. Photo courtesy: Centralia Little League

Her own son is still friends with his teammates he met in t-ball fifteen years ago. “They almost grow into a family,” she adds.

The program is supported by local businesses like the Lewis County Les Schwab stores, whose donations help pay for equipment, maintaining fields and keeping the program going. Kelley says Les Schwab has been particularly generous over the years, donating in multiple ways including sponsoring teams, sponsoring Les Schwab Field for the past few years.

This support is imperative to the league’s continuation as they are a self-maintaining program. Contrary to popular belief, says Kelley, the city does not maintain their fields – they do. And that costs a lot. In addition, they use the money to keep the cost of participation as low for the families as they can. Kelley believes they are one of the lowest-costing programs in the state in terms of league fees – it’s about $75 for Little League and Major League with discounts for multiple kids. T-ball and Rookie age is about $60. None of this would possible without the support of local businesses, Kelley explains. Centralia Les Schwab has taken their donations just one step further and also donates their time as well money to help ensure the league’s success.

“Mark has really stepped up and has ideas to help modernize the league as well,” she adds. “Centralia Little League has kind of fallen behind compared to programs up north as far as how we do things. We are trying to get back in the swing of things to keep up with the other teams in the state. He has been a positive influence to our league.”

In addition, for as long as Kelly can remember, Mark has been putting on a ball toss on opening day at the field. Often, he brings his own employees to man the booth, out of his own pocket. “He has just been incredibly supportive and is always the first one to step forward and donate,” Kelley adds.

“We want it to feel like a carnival,” Kelley says. “We are hoping for good weather and to have people come down, hang out, do a ball toss, maybe take in a game and grab a hot dog from a concession stand. We want to make it a community event to support our local kids. Every year we do something kind of like this, but it’s never been very grand. This year, we wanted to make it bigger and get people to come down and stay for the day.”

Centralia Little League
While it’s fun to win, most of the kids are in the Centralia Little League because they love to play baseball and want to have fun with friends. They learn how to be good sports and what it means to work with a team – skills they will find useful their entire lives. Photo courtesy: Centralia Little League

In addition to the Centralia Les Schwab ball toss, they are planning on having food from local businesses (in past years, they had a Dutch Bros. stand, for example) and carnival-like activities. Kelley said they may have the Centralia Police Department there with their cars and maybe the Fire Department.

Games are free to watch with concessions available to purchase. The woman running the concessions likes to change it up and give fans a variety – some days they have pork sliders and on cold days she often serves up soup. So this year, take yourself, your family and some friends to the ball game.

For more information about Centralia Little League, you can visit their website or Facebook page.

For more information about Lewis County Les Schwab, visit their website or call 360-736-6603 (Centralia) and 360-748-0295 (Chehalis).

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