After 50 Years as a Little League Volunteer, District Administrator Mel Haas Relishes Program’s Pioneering Spirit
Mel Haas, foreground, has served as Washington District 12 Administrator for 30 years; and was a founding member of the Walla Walla Pacific Little League in 1956.
“When Little League’s board of directors voted to adopt the
program it was a matter of fact for me … I expected it,” Mr. Haas,
elected district administrator in 1977, said. “I think the pitch
count will save arms and will help the growth of Little League. The
board and the program are doing something worthwhile, and hopefully,
other youth leagues will follow.”
More information on the pitch count can be found here:
As a founding member of Walla Walla (Wash.) Pacific Little League in 1956, Mr. Haas recognized the relevance of Little League on the local level, but also has been witness to the program’s successful coupling of forward thinking and unwavering commitment to a positive youth sports experience.
“We didn’t have much baseball in our area when I was growing up, but when we played, I remember those days fondly,” Mr. Haas, who will be 80 in May, said. “When I grew up and decided to volunteer, I figured it was my way of donation to the youth.”
Walla Walla Pacific had enough players to form four teams that first year, and according to Mr. Haas, “The field was a pile of dust.” The volunteer base grew as did the number of teams, and presently the Wall Walla area has several flourishing Little League programs.
Mr. Haas is quite proud of the growth, and commends all of the volunteers who have given freely of their time over the years, but he also attributes the expansion to the belief in the spirit of Little League.
“I helped form a league and served as a player agent for 20 years,” Mr. Haas said. “My first season as a Little League volunteer I was a coach and scorekeeper and my business –Pete’s Sports Shop – has sponsored a Little League team for 32 years.”
As Little League branched out, more resources generated more initiatives such as the creation of the softball program and Little League education programs like ASAP (A Safety Awareness Plan). Mr. Haas was instrumental in chartering softball and Challenger Division for the first time in Walla Walla, and had a voice in creating Little League International’s ASAP program.
With all of Little League’s innovations over the years, Mr. Haas looks at the pitch count as a sweeping change, yet has listened to the 11 leagues in his district to form the general opinion he has on the new rule.
“Last year, I let each league in the district decide if they wanted to opt into the (pitch count) pilot program – most did, so it won’t be new to them,” Mr. Haas said. “It seems stronger leagues are stronger because they work their pitchers harder. In District 12, there are smaller communities, with smaller leagues, and they’re more apt to use more pitchers.”
Mr. Haas sees education as the silver lining, and the primary reason why Little League is better now compared to when he started. Noting the volume of information that is available via the internet and other Little League publications, he sees the transition to the pitch count as a rite of passage.
“I think the rule is pretty lenient,” Mr. Haas said. “Throwing 75 pitches is quite a few, but I feel the pitch count will help the situation for coaches and managers. Now coaches think they’re players will be throwing more games, which may come true, but they’ll still be throwing fewer pitches overall.”
Divulging this is his final year as district administrator, Mr. Haas said he will attend the 24th Little League International Congress this April in Houston, Texas, and plans to help the newly-elected DA when asked.
When considering advice he may offer to potential Little League volunteers, Mr. Haas said simply, “Get involved.”
Washington District 12 will host the Little League Baseball Major Division state tournament this summer.
For tournament season, he plans to assist where needed, but in August he will have to make some special time for his wife, Loleta, also a former Little League volunteer, as the couple celebrates their 60th wedding anniversary. The Haas’s have two children; son, Douglas, who played in Walla Walla American Little League; and daughter, Marjorie.