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Len Story Uses Alaska Quakes To Build Leaders

Len Story takes his Anchorage travel club around the country for the experiences Len Story takes his Anchorage travel club around the country for the experiences

When you think baseball, you don’t think Alaska.

But then you’d be missing out on some hardy individuals, such as Anchorage Quakes coach Len Story.

Story’s day job is being the CEO of R&M Consultants, an engineering and surveying firm with locations in Anchorage and Fairbanks. But he has loved baseball since he was 6, thanks to his father, who coached him.

He loves the game so much that he named his children Gehrig and Maris, and his stepson is named Maddux.

He loves baseball so much he helped resurrect the travel ball Quakes team in 2014 after it had gone dormant.

Story, 56, has been involved in coaching baseball in Alaska since 1999, and now coaches a team of 9- to 13-year-olds with a philosophy that stretches beyond the diamond.

“I played Little League when I was a kid, and it was a positive experience,” the Klamath Falls, Ore., native said. “It’s something I wanted to give back.

“We create a teaching opportunity for the lifelong skills . . . It’s about what myself and our coaches can teach (kids) in a life setting and creating lifelong friendships.”

For that, Story is the Ripken Baseball Youth Coach of the Year.

Overcoming Challenges

In a challenging climate—it has been known to snow on Memorial Day—and without a dedicated indoor facility, Story still creates a winning environment for the Quakes.

“Our season is really from May to September,” he said. “We really don’t have an indoor facility right now. . . . It’s a little tougher to play and practice year-round than it is for the kids in the lower 48.”

To Story, it was important to bring back the Quakes name. There are other travel ball teams in Alaska, but none has the history.

“It was a staple of Anchorage, and I’m honored to be involved with it,” said Story, who was long enamored of Alaska’s hunting and fishing, as well as its remoteness.

When he graduated from high school in 1979, Story’s parents gave him a ticket to Alaska. He so enjoyed the trip that he vowed to return, and when he graduated from the Oregon Tech, he returned to Alaska and stayed. He has shown that same level of dedication to baseball, giving his time to coaching in various capacities.

And he has received tremendous support from parents, who are on board with his plan to take the kids to such events as the Ripken Baseball tournaments in Aberdeen, Md., and Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

As you’d imagine, it’s an expensive proposition, costing $1,500-$2,000 per player. R&M sponsors the team, but the parents foot the costs. But Story said every parent has been supportive of the plan to take the kids thousands of miles away.

“Baseball is what gets families together,” Story said. “It’s team-building, it’s leadership-building and having that time with the team, outside baseball and together, it’s been great.”

Curt Hebert has a unique perspective on Story, as both an assistant coach and a parent of one of the players.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Hebert, who works for an insurance agency. “I’m proud my son plays for him because the kids are first and foremost in his mind, and one of the really cool things about being a parent and a coach alongside him is, it’s not about him, but about what’s best for the kids.”

Hebert said Story’s contributions go beyond what most parents understand. “There’s just a high level of trust in him and what’s he done,” he said.

For Story, baseball and family go hand-in-hand. One of his favorite parts of coaching baseball is being a mentor to the players and the families off the field.

“It’s the impact I have on the kids,” he said. “We had a full house of kids watching the World Series. That’s what’s important to me, helping build our next set of leaders.”

Hebert said the Story house is the go-to house for the kids, whether it’s about baseball or not. Hebert said Story brought out-of-the-box thinking to the job, including bringing in the kids on Fridays for board meetings in the R&M conference room, where the goal was baseball and beyond.

“It was about how baseball translates into life,” Hebert said. “It’s about getting them to be stronger mentally as well as physically.”

Story got a chance to see that kind of growth up close this season. A 12-year-old who had trouble keeping his emotions in check on the mound earlier in the season was on the mound for the citywide championship. He made it through to pitch a complete game and kept his composure.

“The games have been very rewarding in a sense that you see the practice pay off in a game. (The championship) was one of the best games I’ve had,” Story said.

It’s challenging to making the practices fun, Story acknowledges, especially when it’s cold most of the time. But he remembers, during one get-together with his players, watching some of the kids play wiffle ball, in shorts, when it was 15 degrees.

“That’s baseball in Alaska,” he said.

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