As you drive through town it’s hard to miss one of HLLA’s roadside ads. This is how Chris Pipkins was first introduced to the league. He is a local by all accounts. He attended JMU for grad school in the early nineties and returned to Harrisonburg in 1997, where he has lived ever since.
Chris enjoys baseball, and he himself played up through the seventh grade. Though for Chris, it was always more of an activity rather than a vocation. For Chris— while an Orioles fan— he is involved with the league, first and foremost because of his son Lennox. Lennox Wright-Pipkins is six years old, and has fallen in love with America’s favorite pastime.
“We would play baseball out in the yard and he seemed to like it. Then I took him to an Orioles game and that’s when he seemed interested in playing on a team,” said Pipkins.
When the league needed another set of hands on the field, Chris stepped up to serve as an Ad Hoc coach. Contrary to popular belief, the league is not made up of all veteraned coaches. In fact, what it often needs most is just that extra person to step up.
“They needed another dad to work with one or two kids. I was there, and I happened to have my glove with me. I wasn't pressured or obligated, I just saw that there were 900 people at Opening Day, but not everybody got to be on the field. I felt useful when I showed up,” said Pipkins.
For Pipkins, it was incredibly rewarding to take on the unexpected role. He got to be more in-touch with his son’s interests, while also making new friendships with league parents. Chris let his son play baseball for reasons that surpass just the joy of the game. “I think baseball asks for a different skill-set than some of the other sports. Its a team but with an individual component.”
As HLLA gears up for the 2019 season, Chris is optimistic about the future of parent involvement. “I think there's a lot of events that provide opportunity for the community to come together,” he said.
Jared Dull is both a parent and a volunteer coach with the Harrisonburg Little League Association. Dull balances supporting his players while working full time, serving as a longtime member of the Harrisonburg community. Born in Staunton and raised in Harrisonburg, Dull played on little league teams up until he went to Harrisonburg High School before graduating in 2004.
Jared Dull shares his joy for the game with his three children, Troy, Charlie and EJ. His son Troy is starting his fourth year with HLLA. “He had a bat in his hand before he was two years old,” said Dull. He believes baseball offers important values and lessons on teamwork that other sports simply cannot imitate. “It's the best team sport I know of, because it requires everyone to come together. So I tried to make sure my sons had a similar experience to what I had growing up.” Both Charlie and EJ are entering into their second year with the HLLA.
The recipient of a local “Little League World Series” trophy, Dull cherishes his memories of playing for the Minnesota Twins. To this day, he stays in touch with many of his old teammates, some who went on to play at the collegiate level for programs such as Virginia Tech.
Having lived in the area his whole life, Dull has seen first hand how both Harrisonburg, and its league have grown over the years. “I have seen Dean work hard to make HLLA bigger and to increase participation. He did it his own way, and he’s really getting the community more involved.”
Dull is a prime example of the dedicated parents that maintain the all-star reputation of the HLLA. From player to parent to assistant coach, Dull will be entering the 2019 season as a returning head coach for a farm league baseball team. “I try to get my hands involved in just about everything we do. My whole family gets involved with fundraising.”
While his role as a dad brought him back into the league, he explained how local community members can support the league regardless of if they have children who play.
“My team sponsor doesn’t have kids but is invested in baseball. There is no better way to serve than to serve your local community, all while getting your name out there,” he said.
HLLA Story is an official blog site of the Harrisonburg Little League Association. All content is managed by Bluestone Communications, a student-run public relations agency at James Madison University. Please contact Isaac Woo (email@example.com), faculty director of Bluestone Communications, if you have any questions about the blog or the stories.