Editor’s Note: The following was submitted by the Sunrise Rotary Club.
“Our pockets were vibrating” was how Elise Stone described her best moment of the past summer’s charmed run by Westport’s Little League heroes during the World Series in Williamsport, PA.
Her son Matt was the team’s catcher, and she, Coach Tim Rogers and four players – Matt Brown, Tatin Llamas, Charlie Roof and Drew Rogers – joined Sunrise Rotary for breakfast on Friday and gave the group a glimpse of their once in a lifetime adventure.
Another guest was Steve Axthelm, Commissioner the Girls’ Softball League, whose 10 and 11 year old team, by the way, won the state championship and would have been our heroes were it not for the boys extraordinary run.
Bill Meyer, Rotary’s Speaker Chair – and a former Girls’ Commissioner – had invited Ms. Stone to offer a mother’s perspective.
She told her best moment story to the writer following the meeting – favored Westport had fallen behind the Sammamish, WA team, 13-6, as our boys came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning of a U.S. semi-final game.
While the score mounted against them, Ms. Stone was fielding what became 2,500 texts. The first were all past tense – a great summer, a magic run, “They did great.”
But the parents were living in the future, hoping for the miracle – the one in 100 shot that they’d come back and snatch victory… They did, scoring seven runs to tie the game. Then, in the seventh – an extra inning – they got the miracle, a walk off single, and a 14-13 win.
As the team battled through the fifth inning tenses shifted – first the future, “Oh my gosh,” could they?” Then the present, “They’re doing it.” And, with the big hit, it was all past tense – “They did it!”
Another mother, Karla Roof , whose son Charlie was a pitcher and outfielder, said when the last run scored in that game “We were all in shock. After the start it was so unexpected.” Before the adventure began Charlie was packed and ready for camp. But the team kept winning, and camp got put off, one week at a time. Meanwhile, she said, his camp friends followed every game and cheered the team on.
Coach Rogers, speaking to the group, thanked Axthelm. He “felt badly because the girls were not getting the recognition they deserve because of what our guys accomplished.”
He “continues to be amazed about the impact they had on the community,” and “Nothing was more rewarding than the parade.”
Selecting the team’s 11 players was tough, he said. “I’ve coached some of them for four years. They all worked so incredibly hard. Getting to the Little League World Series was “a dream, for sure.” But “more important was becoming the best team they could possibly be,” through a 65 game schedule including a fall season, the regular spring season, the all-star season, then the four weeks away from home that took this team to Williamsport, PA. Throughout, “family support has been amazing.”
Rogers asked the players to share their biggest memories. Matt Brown said it was “really fun,” and thanked everyone for their support. He cited the Mexico game, which the team lost, but Brown enjoyed “being able to pitch, then hitting my home run.” Tatin Llamas called it “my home run against Washington.” For Charlie Roof it was the Washington game comeback. “I was confident we would win.” Drew Rogers said beating the favored Tennessee team, “our first game under the pressure,” was his.
Coach added that the Washington game “was the best I’d ever seen in about eight years of following the LLWS.”
Ms. Stone talked about how well coached and prepared the team was, that Rogers taught the players sportsmanship right from the outset. “They all just think that’s the way baseball is played.”
She talked about her feelings as the team swept through its schedule “pure joy, passionate commitment, intensely stressful and emotional, exhilarating, dream come true.” She saw her son and his friends “accomplish a shared goal they would barely admit to out loud to anybody but coaches and teammates.”
The run ended two wins short of the championship. Whether the players enjoy continued success or they become “one hit wonders,” Stone said, they all feel more confident today about who they are and what they can do.
So our Little League heroes didn’t win it all. But they made our summer. They gave our community the opportunity to celebrate what one of the Jessup Green speakers called “the biggest thing to happen in Westport since the British landed at Compo Beach.”