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Championship commuters in league of their own

Lakeside families go the distance to support Little League all-stars
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Amidst the euphoria that comes with a successful run through Little League postseason all-star tournament play, reality occasionally sneaks in and reminds families that life doesn’t stop while the youngsters play the game. From June 15, the day that all-star rosters are formally announced, the Lakeside Little League all-stars have been at it every day, and with their high school siblings now back in the classroom, the result for these families has been a summer spent in the pursuit of baseball glory. “It’s a lot of fun to watch baseball games,” said Chris Munkdale, whose son Brett plays second base for the Lakeside Major all-stars, “but life goes on. This experience can be very grueling on family life.” Munkdale owns a pair of car washes in the area, one in Auburn and the other in Lincoln, and while he has left his business in capable hands, it has not been easy. “I can be away for awhile, but not too long,” Munkdale said. “Any time you own a business and you are away for an extended period of time, it is difficult.” Like Munkdale, Steve Frank owns his own business. With an orthodontic practice in west Roseville, Frank has made drastic changes to his work schedule in order to be at his son’s games. His wife Cindy is a dental hygienist at a Sacramento dental practice and the two commuted back and forth to Danville daily for Nick’s games at the Northern California tournament that preceded the current event in San Bernardino. The Franks have been here before, as their older son, Cody, was on the last Lakeside team to reach Western Region, in 2003. Steve has taken a different approach this time around. “Last time I was back and forth to San Bernardino,” Frank said. “I would watch a couple of games and then go back, work long hours, and then come back down to watch another game or two. I ended up missing an important game that way, so this time I worked long hours in advance and I am sure I will pay the price when this is over.” While the situation for each of the 12 Lakeside families is different, each player has enjoyed having all or part of the family make the trip to San Bernardino. Some are back and forth, while others have been able to arrange schedules to stay the entire time. “My wife is home with our two kids who started high school this week,” Munkdale said. “She is bothered at not being able to come down, and she is going to fly down Wednesday and again on Friday to see those two games.” The Munkdales had to cancel a planned vacation to Hawaii when the all-star run extended into the late summer, and both Brett and Nick Frank would have been playing with their travel ball team in Cooperstown this week if they had not been playing here. “We bought trip insurance when we booked the Hawaii trip three months ago,” Munkdale said. “We had to cash that in once we advanced to the Northern California tournament.” Regardless of the sacrifices required, one of the best aspects of Little League is its family feel, and both Frank and Munkdale share a devotion to their kids with the rest of these Lakeside families. “My staff at the office has been great,” Frank said. “They know how important this is to me and Cindy is into it as much as I am. We wouldn’t miss a game.” “When my 12-year-old son is my age and looks back on this he is going to realize that he has had an opportunity that most 12-year-olds don’t have. I don’t think these kids even realize what they are doing, and that is probably a good thing for right now.” If the team is fortunate enough to survive this tournament, it will earn a spot at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., and the juggling act will continue. “The best thing about the experience is that all of the parents get along really well together,” Munkdale said. “It has been great to do things together and enjoy this experience with each other and with our kids.”