Thinking back 30 summers, Bruce Foxe described the girls he coached: “They’re a great bunch of kids.” Most of those kids are 42 now, some with kids of their own.
What happened that summer will be celebrated Saturday by former players and coaches from the 1989 Marysville Little League Softball All-Star team. Winners all, as 12-year-olds they made it to the Little League Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
At Wenberg County Park on Lake Goodwin Saturday, they’ll get together to remember the wins — and very few losses. More though, they’ll celebrate friendships. From softball fields to Facebook posts, their bonds are unbreakable.
In the end, they were beaten by girls from Naples, Florida. Three decades later, that hardly matters.
“I remember the fun stuff,” said Jami Nyblod, a shortstop on the Marysville team who went on to play for the University of Washington.
Mindy Staudinger — Mindy Nowak back then — was the 1989 Marysville All-Stars’ catcher. She remembers the big games, and even a few bad calls. But mostly “I think of spending a lot of time with my friends,” she said. “I think about the rides in the van to the games. We always had the Beach Boys playing. It was Bruce’s van, and we’d all sing.”
As a volleyball coach at Jackson High School, Staudinger has seen stress among players. “I don’t remember ever feeling stress,” she said. “We were taught well and were having fun. We didn’t worry about winning the next game.”
Frank Grambo was manager of the ’89 Marysville Little League Softball All-Stars — a head coach while Foxe, now 72, was his assistant coach. After the Little League years, Grambo coached many of the players on an American Softball Association team until they were 18.
“I’ll be doing a lot of crying Saturday,” said Grambo. Now 63, the Snohomish man got together Tuesday with several former players at Cedar Field, Marysville Little League’s ballpark. He brought his 1989 red-and-white team jacket, which on the back boasts: State Champions, Division I Champions, West Region Champions and World Series 2nd Place.
“The bonds are incredible,” said Stanwood’s Jamie Bilow, who played first base. “Some of my best friends I played softball with since I was 10. We have dinner or coffee once or twice a month.”
Nyblod wasn’t the only teammate who played in college.
Pitcher Diana Burrows, now Diana Wagner, is one of two former Marysville All-Stars who played for Western Washington University. Jamie (Gillies) Howell also played for WWU. And Shevaun (Seibert) Good was on Portland State University’s softball team.
Wagner remembers a parade and other hoopla after returning from Kalamazoo. “I didn’t realize what a big deal it was until we got back to our hometown,” said Wagner, who lives in Everett. Her 5-year-old daughter, Joann, isn’t a ballplayer — not yet, but tee-ball is on the horizon.
“I can’t wait for our reunion this weekend,” said Jen (Buell) Williams. An outfielder in ’89, she is traveling from Missouri for Saturday’s gathering, where Grambo promises to show a video of the World Series championship game.
Williams, whose daughter and sons played Little League in Marysville, said that whole winning summer was memorable. “Now it’s the lasting friendships we all have.”
Grambo and Foxe got into coaching softball because their own daughters had played. They vividly recall games that led to the World Series — especially a district tournament in Oak Harbor that sent them on to the state competition in Ephrata.
In Oak Harbor, they faced Mukilteo’s All-Star girls. “Win, we go to state. Lose, we’re out,” Foxe said. In the last inning, the Marysville team was behind by six runs. “We scored seven runs and still had two girls on base when the game ended,” Foxe said.
From the state tournament, they remember scorching Columbia Basin heat and staying together in a hotel — with a pool. At regionals, they beat stellar teams from Oregon and California.
Coaching the girls “was the most important thing I’ve done in my life, besides getting married and having my kids — and I like to win,” Grambo said.
Staudinger remembers joking with players’ names. “I was Mindy-Mo,” she said. And Heidi Larson “was Heidi-Ho,” Staudinger said. “We wanted to perform, for sure. But if somebody struck out, we bounced back, moved on and had fun.”
The All-Stars were chosen from six Marysville Little League softball teams. Now Heidi Hale, of Conway, the former center fielder will never forget finding out she’d been selected for the team.
“They picked us up at our houses and took us all out to breakfast,” Hale said. “That one moment changed my whole life. It’s like having a bunch of sisters.”