Sean Percival, owner of Hub City Auto Glass, is a busy guy. At 5:00 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, we meet at a coffee house. He’s eating a pastry and coffee – turns out that’s his dinner for the evening. He just got done with business – 10 customers served since 9:00 a.m. – but he’s not done working. He will spend the next two and half hours coaching the Titans, his 9- to 12-year-old Centralia Little League team. And will probably be at the batting cages until 9:00 p.m. that night. This is not unusual. This will be his schedule almost every day until the end of the season.
“I won’t see him until the end of August, when the last game is played,” says Maritza, Sean’s wife, as she comes into the coffee shop with their two boys who both play Little League, and their friend Shawna Estrada, who owns ABC Locksmith with her husband, Gustavo. But Sean is not the only one wrapped up in the game. Maritza is on the Board of Directors for the League and is also Treasurer. Shawna is Vice President of the Board. Both women have jobs that they juggle, along with their kids and Little League. Accomplishing all they do is a team effort both on and off the field.
Since they both have kids that play, Maritza and Shawna help each other out by making sure all the kids get to the right practices at the right time and somehow get fed in between. “We need to start Crockpotting more,” Maritza says. “We eat a lot of fast food. But it’s hard when you leave the house at 6:00 a.m. and may not be back until 10:30 p.m.”
This is Sean’s 16th year coaching a Little League team. It started when his boys were just old enough to play t-ball. And just how does he do it all?
“Honestly, with a lot of help,” he says humbly. “My wife does an amazing job of keeping everything fresh on my mind. Helps me with work, helps me with the team. Shawna is our best friend. She does the same, helps me with everything. It’s a team effort and I couldn’t do it without them.” He laughs and quickly adds that he does all the work, to which Shawna replies, “Yeah, the manual labor.” It’s clear the four are close, which is a good thing considering the crazy schedules.
It may seem crazy to some to put so much time and effort into a sport, but these local business owners have very good reasons for doing what they do.
“First of all, it’s for my boys,” Sean explains. “They like having their dad coach the team, and it’s important for the Little League to continue to grow and have good coaches. This year we have a really good group of coaches. It’s really more about real life than just baseball. It teaches them how to become men in a sense. We aren’t doing the job as parents, but we are trying to set the table a little better.”
It’s a volunteer sport, so the kids see adults volunteering their time, which sets a good example, he adds. In addition, while every kid gets to play when they are younger, as they get older, the kids with better skills get to play more. “This teaches them to work for what they want,” Sean adds. “Not everyone can be a starter. It teaches them life is not always fair, but if you are willing to work for it, you can get it.”
“It’s for the kids,” Maritza echoes. “It keeps them off the streets. You grow attached to all these boys, you see them grow up. The kids Sean was coaching in Little League are now going off college, and it’s great to know you provided them with a safe activity. That you helped set them on that successful path, instead of the path they could have taken.” Sean is passionate about this as well and has a strict, zero-tolerance anti-bully policy on his team.
This year, the league is bigger than ever with 275 kids on 24 teams. That means the volunteers have even more work to do. It’s Maritza’s first year on the board and she says it makes you realize all the work someone else has been doing for your kid. It also means business support is more important than ever.
“Without local businesses sponsoring, there would be no Little League,” says Shawna. “There is no money without business stepping up and helping out. There would be no field, no field maintenance, no equipment and no baseballs. The sponsorships pays for everything.”
Sometimes money goes to helping a kid afford the league fees or buy equipment. “Once all the kids on Sean’s team could afford a jacket, except one,” Maritza says. “We got together and we paid for that one kid to have a jacket. We are a family, we pull together and we help each other out.”
Both business donate to the Centralia Little League with more than just their time. ABC Locksmith sponsors a t-ball team, The Lockers. “We sponsored a young team in the hopes that my grandchildren will play next year,” Shawna says. ABC Locksmith donated their own service as well by rekeying the cages when it was needed.
They always need volunteers and businesses that want to help in any way. “We are grateful for the business that donate every year,” Maritza says. “But there is always a need for something so if you aren’t involved yet, whether an individual or a business, we have room for you to come help. Even if you know nothing about baseball.”
Volunteers do everything – from announcing the games and running concessions to helping keep the field one of the nicest in the league. “I don’t know that we have ever held a game with an out-of-town team where they haven’t mentioned how beautiful our field is,” Shawna says. “That takes endless hours of upkeep by volunteers.” Just last year, Sean and the rest of the coaches spent hours vacuuming and sponging water from the field when it got too soggy. To protect their investment, they don’t play when it’s too wet.
It’s then that Sean gets a text – practice is starting. He rounds up the kids that Maritza brought and heads off to practice. He’ll see his wife later that night, just in time to put the kids to bed. It’s a long day, but they love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.