Federal Way National Little League (FWNLL) hosted its 2023 jamboree and parade of players, kick-starting the season on Saturday, April 22.
“It’s been great to see the numbers going back up. It’s really special, “ said Director of Community Sponsorships Reuben Morales.
This year the little league is finally back on track with pre-pandemic numbers, starting with the youngest age group, T-Ballers. The division of youngsters consists of four- and five-year-olds and this year, has 14 teams in T-ball alone.
That number is something the volunteers on the little league board say they are proud of. “The hope is to build the programs up from the grassroots and help them fall in love with the game … We want to see if we can help keep those kids active in baseball, especially in a safe environment like this,“ Morales said.
The league has 15 different divisions (eight baseball, five softball, two Challenger teams) that kids can participate in. The total number of players is over 500 this season.
Hard work behind the scenes paid off for the league as community outreach began once the quarantine period of the pandemic slowed.
“We do a lot of outreach programs, and a lot of community nonprofits see where we can remove barriers. The Facility Rentals Director, Gary Haven spearheaded a lot of those efforts. It’s been great seeing the numbers come back up,” Morales said.
Some of the attendees at the jamboree were Federal Way Deputy Mayor Susan Honda, King County Councilmember Pete von Riechbauer and Federal Way City Councilmember Linda Kochmar. Having those pillars of the local community in attendance at an event like this doesn’t go unnoticed, Morales said.
The league is recovering from some financial hardships because the organization owns the land, the fields, and all the costs associated with running the league.
“Six years ago, we were close to running into the red at a cost level … We needed to do a community outreach program which was something we hadn’t done. Once the community started hearing there was a need they started jumping in. Ever since that day, we’ve had ongoing support from the sponsors because they believe in what we’re doing,” Morales said.
An unusual need has surfaced for the league: umpires. With the resurgence of kids in the league, FWNLL is in search of umpires to help officiate these games. But the main goal for the league is to get parents and families out to the ballpark.
“There’s always going to be a need for umpires, if younger kids 13-18 want to make some cash it’s a good thing,” Morales said with a smile. “But the thing we’re trying to communicate out to families here is we need to be supportive and take into perspective that these are just kids playing ball.”
Every year the T-ball, Single-A and Double-A all have minor league team names. Morales’ favorite this year is the Mighty Muscles. “Lori Mulhauser did a really good job this year, she’s fantastic,” Morales said of the uniform director.