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A FAMILY AFFAIR
By Dan Jones
For The Observer
Joel Hasse glows with genuine excitement when talking about his kids.
He just had a sinus operation, but tilts back in his chair smiling while trying to find the words that sum up the emotions of a Little League dad.
"I go out with my daughter and we play catch and I throw it to her as hard as I can," Hasse said. "She is 12 years old, and I would have never dreamed that I could go out with my daughter and play catch and not have to be careful about how hard I was throwing the ball."
Hasse, who is the Information Systems Coordinator at Boise Cascade, has coached both his 18-year-old, Joellyn, and younger daughter Shelby. Now, he is the Union County Little League Safety Officer and is involved in the girl's Juniors team.
The dad coached the Goss Motors Majors team, kids that are 11-12 years old, and helped the squad win first place with nine wins.
"The busier you are the more you just structure your time so you can get done with what you need to do," he said.
Hasse is well aware that the Juniors girls team will actually field in All-Star competition because too many of the older Seniors players were just too busy. Joel keeps track of dates and times of Little League practices and games because he cherishes the values the sport teaches.
"I am a real proponent of sports and school. In sports, you have to get along with people and, guess what, in real life you have to get along with people," he said. "When you are on a shift in the mill, you are working with a filer, you are working with a sawyer, you are working with all these other people to put out the best product you can. That is true throughout."
Hasse also emphasized the importance of the rules in Little League. The kids get at least one at-bat and three defensive innings in the field.
"Everyone gets to play, no one is turned away," he said.
Lessons are learned in Little League, but for both parents and kids, having fun is the biggest objective.
Hasse gets a kick by telling new coaches about the "stages of Little League".
"I always tell them that they are going to have the freshly mowed grass night (they will look at you kind of funny), the butterfly night the dandelion night," he said.
"When the grass is heavy that day after they mow it everybody's mitt is full of grass, and when somebody finally hits a ball, because they do not hit them very often or very far, they don't know what to do. Sometimes you look out in the outfield and everyone of the kids are chasing butterflies. Nobody has a clue what is going on!"
The dad's oldest daughter started playing around age nine, and his youngest caught the baseball bug at five. Joellyn got him into Little League her second year, and he was assistant coach on her team. He filled a full-time coaching spot as a replacement, and has since been involved every season. Joel worked with her for three years, and has been alongside Shelby ever since T-ball.
As a kid, Hasse never got the chance to play Little League because he and his family were always camping.
At La Grande High School, he competed in football and wrestling. After graduating from Eastern Oregon University and working at a mill for many years, his fond memories of years, and games, past still remain. His first Little-Leaguer, who was on the La Grande High School volleyball team that went to state two years in a row, reminds him why these games are so important.
"She just graduated from high school. I graduated a year before La Grande took state. We missed going to state by one point against Bend in 73, so there was some real camaraderie on our team, like there always is in sports. You develop relationships," he said.