Trip to Williamsport doesn't come cheap for Little League families
Any parent will tell you that children are expensive. And the parents of the Lake Oswego Little League All-Star team know this better than anyone as their trip to watch LO play in the World Series has been one heck of an amazing, incredible, emotional and expensive ride.
'It's mind boggling,' said Janet Ramey, wife of team manager Craig Ramey and mother to Little League shortstop Harrison Ramey. 'This has not been cheap,' she said. 'Between the expenses and missing work…I can't even begin to imagine adding it all up.'
Decked out in their Northwest garb, hats and T-shirts, bracelets and pins, everything comes at a price for the parents and fans of Lake Oswego. From souvenirs, food, cell-phone bills, hotels, airfare, rental cars, house-sitters, dog-sitters, nannies, gifts for the people at Little League, and not to mention lost wages and vacation time, following the Lake Oswego All-Stars is quite the tab.
'You just can't even think about it; you just get out the credit card,' said Janice Andrews, mom to second baseman Austin Andrews. With 10 members of Austin's family there to support him in Williamsport, they are always on the lookout for cheap places to eat and ways to save a penny here and there.
'There is a good place down the road that has great meals for around $5 a person,' said Andrews. But even that adds up when you're eating all three meals out - including the standard stadium fare of hotdogs, pizza, french fries and soda.
The Hummel family one night found themselves benefiting from the kindness of strangers when they ate dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant. All decked out in their Northwest garb, a Williamsport local picked up their bill.
'The waitress came over and said, 'I'm not sure how you want to handle this, but that woman over there wants to buy your dinner,'' said Maria Hummel, mom to outfielder Cooper Hummel. 'I just started crying. To think that someone out of the blue wanted to help you out. She just understood that we had come so far and we got to chatting, they wanted to show us the city.'
Almost all of the families have been on the road for over three weeks, since their trip to regionals in San Bernardino California. Most of them got at least a 48-hour reprieve between regionals and the World Series, but that time was spent acquiring hotels and air travel. Since the little leaguers qualified for the World Series, it has been a whirlwind of activity for the players, the parents, the siblings of little leaguers and their extended families.
'This has been a great time of family bonding,' Andrews said.
Austin's cousin Kevin Jolly from Eugene, who took time off of his IT work at Peace Health in Eugene, echoes that sentiment and doesn't regret his decision to travel to Pennsylvania for a moment. 'I went to work and told my boss that my cousin had advanced to the Little League World Series and he looked at me and said, 'There's no way you're missing this,'' Jolly said.
Most employers have been understanding of the need for vacation time, and many bosses and coworkers have sent their support from home. But the time off work can add up. Dawn Rudolph, pitcher Levi Rudolph's step-mom said, 'My work [at the Oregon Athletic Club] has given a lot for me to be here, but it is difficult. This is an important trip and you just hope your vacation will cover the time.'
Rudolph's brother in-law also helped with the trip by donating an airplane ticket to them and many of the families are using frequent flier miles.
Cherri Roden, Calvin Hermanson's mom said, 'The Lake Oswego community has been really generous. A lot of people donated frequent flier miles. It was a gift to be able to use the miles during this time of year. With only 48 hours notice, many of us were able to take advantage of the miles and fly into Newark, New Jersey.'
Without miles, the average airfare from Portland to Pennsylvania runs between $850 and $1000 per person roundtrip. On such short notice, flying into Williamsport was not feasible and many families made the three hour drive from Newark, Scranton and other outlying cities, which might have saved a few dollars on airfare, but increased the cost of gas.
'A rental car for the two weeks runs about $760,' said Roden.
Hotels have been a different beast. Lake Oswego was one of the last teams to qualify for the World Series, so by the time parents knew they were headed here, most hotels in the area were already booked up.
'We were having a Bethlehem experience,' Roden said. 'No room at the inn.'
Six of the 12 families were forced to stay in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, 50 miles south of Williamsport. At the Shamokin Econo Lodge, prices start at $89 a night - for a tiny, no-frills hotel room that really is just a place to sleep for these families who are spending most days and evenings at Lamade Stadium.
Only three rooms were available at the Quality Inn Williamsport, a hotel name that doesn't quite live up to its promise. As the only show in town, the Quality Inn has the luxury to charge over $200 a night for its mediocre accommodations, but it is convenient.
'We're spending over $3,000 for our stay in Williamsport,' said Ramey, who admits that while the hotel leaves much to be desired, its location affords them the luxury of being walking distance from the stadium.
Calvin Hermanson's dad, Dale Hermanson, also has a room at the Quality Inn. 'We have to pre-pay for the whole two weeks,' he said. 'So, even if we left early, we would still be responsible for the whole amount.'
Hermanson is his own boss as a Manufacturing Consultant and has been working from Pennsylvania during his trip. 'I have 12 employees who are taking care of me,' he said. When he's not busy watching games or spending time with his son, he occasionally can shoot off an e-mail or do some work on his laptop, but the opportunities are limited.
Even though the hotels and the airfare are the big ticket items, those expenses are not the most severe.
'We are hemorrhaging money on incidentals,' said Roden. 'I have heard people say that every time they walk out of the gift shop they have spent another $160. You bleed money on souvenirs. I had to have my Little League bracelet and necklace and our T-shirts and hats. Then there are all the pictures you can buy.'
Patty Weiss, mother to outfielder Michael Weiss, also dropped money to buy DVDs of the boys' games at regionals. There were pictures to buy there too. However, the parents are hoping to share those and hopefully help out with some of the costs. With the advent of TiVo and ESPNs coverage of the World Series, there won't be any need to buy DVDs of the games at Williamsport. But if they needed to, they would.
Rudolph added, 'It's an incredible opportunity and it's worth it to spend the money to preserve the moment.'
While the boys are playing ping-pong, taking swings at batting practice and signing autographs, it is their parents who are keenly aware that years from now their sons will want mementos from their trip to the World Series. They are stocking up on memorabilia that can be passed down from these little leaguers to their own children and pictures that will capture these 12-year-olds in their finest hour.
And that is priceless.