She touched all Little League bases
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Celebration of life
WHO: Deborah Lynn Jacobsen (Debbie)
WHEN: June 24, 2 p.m.
WHERE: Minden Park
Debbie Jacobsen wore many hats during her 30 years of service to Carson Valley Little League.
Above all, Jacobsen, who passed away at age 57 on May 24 after a short battle with cancer, is remembered as a selfless and dedicated volunteer by the many youngsters and adults whose lives she touched. Jacobsen had been league president for the past 11 years and her duties overall ranged from coach to board of directors.
“Debbie served in every office on that board,” said Bruce “Toot” Jacobsen, her husband of 39 years. “That was her passion. She didn’t care who won or lost. As long as the kid was playing ball and smiling, nothing else mattered to her.”
And she had shown no signs of stepping aside even up to the end, according to Cristy Menzer, Little League vice-president.
“She loved what she did and her passion for all these kids to play ball proved to be contagious,” Menzer said. “All of her board members were better because of her. She was a true inspiration of leadership, compassion and love for this community. I have known and been friends with Debbie for the majority of my life and it was an honor to serve on the board with her for the past 10 years and it is a true blessing to call her my friend.”
Even with her big smile and eternally optimistic attitude — she was known as “Miss Debbie” as a preschool teacher at Trinity Lutheran Preschool — there was never any doubt Debbie Jacobsen knew how to take charge when necessary.
“The thing about Debbie, she’s the most tender, sweetest, kindest person on the planet, but she could be super fierce if she had to be,” said Denise Rudnick, a fellow board member whose friendship with Jacobsen dated back to elementary school. “She could give it to any coach. If something wasn’t right, she didn’t tiptoe around because her best interest was with those kids, and she sure gave her heart to that program.”
Board members for any organization devote countless hours in behind the scenes work to coordinate their program. Tim Davis, who manages the majors division Giants, acknowledged the work of Carson Valley Little League board members, a number of whom work even though they have no children playing ball.
“We’re always blessed to have uniforms in good shape and equipment that is top notch,” Davis said. “The way these programs usually go, people go with their kids. Our board is different. I can tell you, there are a half dozen of them who don’t have kids playing and they’re down at the fields every night.”
In 2015, Carson Valley Little League introduced its “Debbie Jacobsen Most Valuable Volunteer” to recognize the “hard work, compassion, and dedication” it takes to make the program run.
“Debbie was a perfect example of that,” Menzer explained. “She was also the first person to get us all together when she would learn one of our Little League kids needed help.”
Jacobsen was always quick to acknowledge that the organization of any season is a team effort, from board members to umpires, coaches and snack bar volunteers.
Those words were echoed by Bob Allen, who has umpired Little League games in the Valley since 2004.
“She’s going to be very much missed in Carson Valley Little League,” Allen said. “She has been a great volunteer in this community and you wouldn’t know it. She was the type of person who wasn’t at the forefront, she was always the person behind the scenes, even though she was the president.”
Manager Clint Celio spoke on May 29 during a pregame tribute to Jacobsen before an important majors division game between his Cardinals and the Cubs on Field 2 at Lampe Park.
“We of Carson Valley Little League lost one of our greatest treasures,” Celio said. “She’s going to leave some huge shoes to fill. She was the backbone of what we have here and what we’re doing today.”
Celio then closed with one more line: “Let’s play this one for Debbie.”
Oh, and by the way, the Cardinals rallied to score two runs in the top of the sixth inning to pull out a 3-1 win over the Cubs. The win proved to be the difference as the Cardinals won a pennant race that saw one game separate four teams.
“This game tonight is exactly the kind of game she loved to see happen,” Celio said during his tribute. “It all comes down to the very end, many teams evenly matched. We’ve had a wonderful season and I think Debbie would be very, very happy. I know she’s smiling looking down on us and what a great way to end the majors season.”
Tim Davis managed a Giants team that finished tied for third-place in that majors race. But remember, Little League baseball was always far more than wins and losses to Jacobsen.
“Debbie was about all the kids, all the time,” Davis said. “She always put the kids first and, boy, she did it for a long time.”
Jacobsen worked to help the kids and the volunteers who were involved with the program. For example, she helped Allen in his quest to umpire games at the Senior League Western Regional in Riverside, Calif., and also helped Robert Erb earn a spot on the Little League Western Regional umpire crew in San Bernardino, Calif.
“Anybody who was a volunteer, she was 100 percent behind them,” Allen said. “One thing I will say for her, and I’ve been involved with a lot of baseball organizations, she would stand behind your decisions 110 percent right. … I’ll never forget her.”
Jacobsen graduated from Douglas High School in 1980, the same year Carson Valley Little League was chartered for its first season with 10 major league and nine farm league teams.
Denise (Hartzell) Rudnick and Jacobsen had been friends since their grade school days and shared a lifetime of memories growing up together, playing sports together and raising their children together. They were slow-pitch softball and volleyball teammates in adult recreation league play. One of the coaches for their softball team, the “Chicks,” was Debbie’s father, Dick Peters (who passed away in 2017). Even their husbands (Bruce Jacobsen and Bob Rudnick) were softball teammates with the old “Outlaws.” Debbie’s brothers, Jeff, Richard, Chris and Danny Peters, also played for the Outlaws as part of a team that won state slow-pitch softball titles in 1976, ‘85 and ‘86.
“We met, we had the same teacher and we’ve just been best friends ever since,” Denise Rudnick recalled. “We have so many memories. We took road trips together up until all the years of having children. We went to Major League games, we went to softball games, we camped, barbecued, our kids all grew up together and it truly was a genuine friendship.
“Even up until a month before she passed away, we visited and even though we didn’t see each other as often as we used to, it was almost like we had never been apart at all. We could get together and just take up and talk for hours without a lapse in anything to say.”
Jacobsen’s Little League involvement began when her own sons played — she even coached Matt from the time he was in T-ball — and in time she would enjoy watching her young grandchildren play.
During all that time Jacobsen found time to play on the field where, not surprisingly, she was known as a tough competitor. Rudnick recalled one softball game when Jacobsen was injured on a slide into second base.
“At that time, the only emergency clinic we had in town was over by the Stratton Center,” Rudnick said. “She went in and they told her she probably just hurt her knee and they sent her home.”
As it turned out, however, Jacobsen discovered her injury was much more than a sprain. Instead, it was a broken femur.
“It was two days and she finally couldn’t get out of bed so they took her to the doctor,” Rudnick added. “She went a couple of days with her femur broken — most people would not have been able to do that — but that’s who she was. She just toughed through it.”
In this case, the injury actually led her to a new job at Carson Orthopedic Center, where she worked for 19 years.
“She was tough as nails, but you know, sweet as honey,” Rudnick added. “She’d do anything for you. And you could count on Debbie. I would say, the biggest thing, if I asked Debbie for something, it was done.”