Hometown effort has helped at least one family member of each Gresham Nationals player find their way to Williamsport

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DEBBIE MEHLHAFF - Jason Trickel gets dumped with water after the Nationals won the state final last month. He had to postpone starting a new job to continue coaching the team at this weeks Little League World Series.WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It costs nothing to walk into the stadium at the Little League World Series. A front row seat behind home plate is the same as a shade spot in the top row — free.

The expensive part is getting here.

That was the trick for about a dozen Gresham Nationals families. One moment they are slapping high-fives celebrating the team’s regional championship, the next they are checking their bank account to see if they can afford to fly across the country.

“It’s exciting, but every time we win, it comes with some big decisions,” Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. “Airfare has definitely been a demand on parents, and hotel rooms are going for $250 a night. That brings a financial burden. We have a lot of self-employed parents — a lot of people who are already struggling in this economy.”

Little League takes care of travel and accommodations for the players and coaches, but any family members wanting to make the trip have to foot their own bill.

A series of fundraisers has helped offset much of that travel cost, ensuring that at least one parent for each family is in Williamsport this week.

“We’ve had a huge support from back home, people going above and beyond to make sure we can get people down here with their kids,” Trickel said. “That has made this a truly special experience.”

Still, some parents remain home in Gresham, as work schedules and finances make watching on ESPN the most sensible option. Others are dropping in on Williamsport for a game or two before having to return home early.

“It’s every boy's dream to play in this and every dad’s dream to be there watching,” says mom Diane Pederson as she fights back tears. “It’s heart-breaking. It’s killing me that he’s not here to see this.”

Her husband, John, works in construction and couldn’t secure time off, although the family is hopeful he’ll be able to arrive at some point.

“It’s the dads who are out there playing catch with these boys, and I wish they could be here for these games,” Diane Pederson says.

Trickel was supposed to start a new job in energy management with Crescent Electric Supply this week, but had to call his new boss last Saturday just hours after the regionals victory and ask for a delay.

“I had just landed my dream job, so that wasn’t the easiest call to make,” Trickel said. “But they’ve been really cool about it.”

While Little League has paid his expenses, Trickel is without vacation time and won’t have a paycheck coming in while he’s away at the Series.

“For the kids lucky enough to get here, it would be huge for their parents to share this with them,” Trickel said. “I get along well with all these players, but they want to be here cheering with mom and dad.”

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