Unsung hero: Val Linke is a hit with the Little League | RecordCourier.com
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Unsung hero: Val Linke is a hit with the Little League

by Nancy Hamlett

It’s baseball season, and Carson Valley Little League is in full swing.

Signups, fund-raisers, tryouts, practices and games; it’s a flurry of activity that doesn’t slow down until the heat of the summer.

The efforts appear to be seamless, yet there is one person who is more than aware of efforts required to put together the season.

Val Linke has been president of Carson Valley Little League for the past two seasons, and although she is the first to credit the 20-plus board members for the success of the program, ultimately the responsibility falls upon her shoulders. You would think that one year of coordinating between 70 and 800 young baseball players on 65 teams would be enough, but Linke said that she had unfinished business she wanted to see through. She agreed to run for office a second year. And for that dedication, Linke is The Record-Courier’s Unsung Hero for the month of March.

“I thought it would be easier the second time around. Silly me,” said Linke. “But there were things I wanted to accomplish, and the best way to do that was to be president for another year.”

Linke, who moved to the Carson Valley in 1996 with her husband, Dan, and two children, Kristin and Scott, said she was involved with youth sports in Southern California, but not to the extent she is now.

“When we moved here, Scott was on Rocky Walling’s team, and the next thing I knew Rocky was drawing me into the organization, getting me involved,” Linke grinned. “Now that I look back, I guess I have Rocky to blame for all of this.”

– Big picture. Linke said her responsibilities as president are similar to a traffic controller. She has to look at the big picture and decide who is going to do all of the jobs.

“I bring all the pieces together, and make sure one person’s decisions don’t adversely affect another. Then I have to make sure we are following all of the national Little League’s rules and regulations, and there are a ton of those,” said Linke.

Although baseball is seasonal, the work of the board is not. Monthly meetings start in October, with each board member receiving information about their responsibilities. By January, they are meeting every two weeks, and by the time the first team takes the field for practice, Linke estimates that she and at least one family member are at one of the ball parks every day.

Linke’s involvement with Little League is truly a family affair. Dan is the equipment manager for the league and Scott’s coach, and Kristin is Linke’s top assistant, running errands, the snack bar or anything else Linke needs.

“We’ll never be a good, one-car family,” said Linke. “There are just too many directions to go. But when the plate gets full, we just move the peas around. Somehow we always find time.”

Once the regular season is over, the All Stars are picked. Last year, the season extended until August, as two teams went to the state playoffs.

“Then, we have a meeting in September to sort it all out, and it starts again in October. There really isn’t any time that we aren’t planning or thinking about Little League baseball,” said Linke. “But there are worse things that you could be doing than being at the park and watching kids play ball.”

Not only does Linke perform the traditional duties of president, she is the first in line when there are problems. She estimates that she gets between 25 and 30 phone calls every day from coaches, board members and parents, and three out of five of those are complaints, criticisms or communication problems.

– See both sides. “My standard answer is to try to get parents involved and see things from the other side of the fence,” said Linke.

According to statistics compiled by the board, less than 10 percent of the parents volunteer their time to Little League in any capacity.

“Don’t tell me that you’re too busy. Don’t go there,” said Linke, a registered nurse who works full time as a medical case manager for an insurance company. “There are hundreds of things that a parent can do that only take an hour or two of their time. Last season, coaches were working the snack bar for the one hour assigned to each team because parents wouldn’t volunteer. That’s sad.”

In addition to planning a season of baseball, Little League volunteers have worked with the parks department to improve conditions at the fields.

“Last year, we put in the batting cages, and this year, we helped relocate the backstop on Field 1. We are also helping with improvements to the dugouts,” said Linke. “We are so appreciative of the support that parks gives us that we try to help any way that we can.”

Because of her experiences with Little League, there are times Linke is sure she will be a diplomat in her next life. There are other times she is sure she is destined for a lifetime of volunteering for Little League baseball. Next year, she will automatically be on the board again as the past president.

“It is an absolutely thankless job, but then I don’t do it for the recognition,” said Linke. “As with any youth sports, the kids learn team work, self-esteem and following rules. My goal is for the lessons on the field to last way after baseball. And if I grow old watching kids play baseball, I’ll be happy.”