PORTLAND - It's been six years since Danelle Wiese's daughter, Leticia, played in the Little League Softball World Series.
That was a special summer for the Wiese family. Mark Wiese, Danelle's husband, was the manager of the Tualatin City Little League all-star team that reached the championship game of the 2000 World Series, held at Alpenrose Dairy.
Leticia Wiese played in the outfield for the TC squad. Danelle Wiese, meanwhile, played the role of supportive mother and supportive wife among her many other duties that eventful summer.
And those were the days before the District 4 champion was given an automatic berth to the World Series. That meant that the 2000 Tualatin City team had to win the district, state, divisional and regional tournaments - that means a lot of traveling and winning - to earn the trip to Alpenrose Dairy.
Yes, that was a special summer for the Wiese family, and other Tualatin City families.
And, it's an understatement to say that, since then, Danelle Wiese has given back to District 4, to Little League softball and to the Little League World Series. She's given over and over and over again.
Wiese, despite not having a daughter in the program since 2000, has played a key, and constant role ever since for both District 4 and for the Little League Softball World Series ever since.
This year, she was the director of the District 4 tournament and an assistant tournament director for the 2006 Little League World Series, which concluded Wednesday at Alpenrose Dairy. Put it all together and it's hours upon
hours, days upon days and weeks upon weeks of work.
So, Danelle, why the heck are you still out there?
'I'm probably half nuts for still doing this,' she said Sunday at Alpenrose during play at the World Series. 'But I love it. I love meeting people from all over.
'I'm out here because I know what this all meant to Leticia and our family. I want it to mean as much to the families that are out here now. When I see the kids smiling, that's really special to me.'
'I think it's a sickness,' Danelle's sister, Sonia Fuller of Scappoose, said with a laugh. 'But she always tells me 'I don't know what I'd do on Mother's Day if I wasn't at a softball field.''
Danelle's duties at the Little League Softball World Series seems to include a bit of everything. But, maybe the best way to sum it us is to say that she tries to make everyone's series experience as special as it can be.
'This puts me in a unique positions to help teams get through the week,' she said. 'I know what they're up against, because I've been through it myself. I tell the coaches from all the teams that `I understand if you just need a shoulder to lean on.' We go out of our way to make it a great experience.'
The Little League Softball World Series is still a great experience for Danelle Wiese, and her family, which is still involved in the event. Leticia and Mark Wiese both helped out ESPN during the network's telecast of the semifinals and championship games.
'I couldn't do what I do without the support of Mark,' Danelle said.
Leticia, in addition to her work helping ESPN, also talked to some of the teams playing in the World Series.
'One thing she says to the teams is that `I wish I would have absorbed it all so much more,'' Danelle said. 'Nina (the Wieses' older daughter, who attends Notre Dame) says she misses being out here for this. This all is part of our kids' experience. It's really special.'
Those feelings go back to the summer of 2000. That's when the Tualatin City players, coaches and families traveled all around the northwest on their trek to the World Series.
'That group was so connected,' Danelle Wiese said. 'The girls worked so hard for it and they played together. They became good friends. The families became good friends. It was such a special experience, now we want to give back.'
Danelle added that a parent - who didn't want to be identified (but I know who he is, and this gentleman's generosity doesn't surprise me) - of one of those Tualatin City players donated 200 pounds of chicken to this year's Little League Softball World Series.
'He wanted to give back for what he was given and lived in 2000,' she said.
It's all part of the spirit of the Little League Softball World Series. And that spirit is alive and well in Danelle Wiese.
She works hard, year after year, to make the experience special for all. But she's also having fun and meeting a lot of people. Danelle, who says she loves to cook, was given a Tennessee cookbook by one of the moms of the players on the Morristown, Tenn., team.
'It's a labor of love for the volunteers,' she said. 'It's very special.'
So that's why she's still doing this.
The summer of 2000 was special for a lot of people involved with the Tualatin City Little League softball team.
I had the honor of covering that special group that summer. Many of those girls are now going on to college. Some continued playing softball after that special summer - some excelling to high levels. Some went on to shine bright in other sports, or other activities.
But, no matter what path they chose, they all have some special memories.
So do I.
At the end of that summer, I was fortunate enough to be given a Tualatin City team photo, signed by all of the players and coaches. That photo still sits above and to the left of my computer here in the office. Thanks.