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Dreaming of Williamsport

by on August 15, 2013 6:30 AM

Almost every young baseball player dreams of making it to Williamsport, Pa. to play in the Little League World Series.

The Howard J. Lamade Stadium is intimate, the fans passionate and knowledgeable, and the atmosphere carnival-like.

It is the "Big Stage" for little guys before they all start to grow up and get caught up in the "real world" as they become teenagers. In full disclosure, I have always questioned whether or not making such a big deal out of a kid's game with all the television coverage and extensive media scrutiny is really appropriate for 12 year olds.

I still wonder if it hasn't gotten out of control especially now that they are televising regional and even state championship games. Heck, technology has made it possible to follow every pitch and get running commentary from whoever is inputting the data on "gametracker" for regular season games so we don't even need to be there in person anymore!

Well none of that is the kids' fault. It is the adults doing and it is the nature of our insatiable desire to want to see our kids grow up to be a major leaguer despite the incredible odds of achieving such a goal. I am an advocate of youth sports and "kids being kids" who are able to dream and strive for their athletic goals ... as long as it is within reason.

I also subscribe to the Greek philosophy of "Arete" that encourages the blending of mind, body, and soul. Too much time spent chasing just one of these traits can be unhealthy and unfulfilling!

So this was THE year my son Ryan and his teammates had their chance to chase after the "Williamsport dream." It starts with all the angst of waiting to be picked for the post-season All-Star team. Then it's the daily practices and all the paperwork to make sure the kids are legit and comply with Little League eligibility rules.

Speaking of those rules ... State College has its place in the annals of LLWS history as one of the unfortunate victims of the 2001 Danny Almonte scandal. Almonte threw a no-hitter against the PA State Champion State College American team in the 2001 Mid-Atlantic Regional finals to send his team to Williamsport before it was discovered that he was in fact a 14 year old.

It denied a group of youngsters with familiar names to those of us in State College (Hart, Mincemoyer, Suhey, Horne, White) the opportunity to play in Lamade Stadium on the big stage.

Coach Jeff Shoemaker has done a wonderful job with this group of kids, many of whom have played with or against each other over the past six years. "One Team, One Dream, One Family" was the team motto. The group of coaches, players, and parents was a true joy to be around.

The 2013 State College Nationals quest for Williamsport started out great in District play. They came from behind to win several exciting games including a big win over their rival State College American team. They beat their new archrival and a very worthy opponent, Tri-County, in dramatic come from behind fashion 6-5 to capture the District 5 Championship.

They made it to the championship game of the State Sectionals in Johnstown but, alas, the dream of making it to Williamsport came to an end. The boys lost to a solid Huntingdon squad that went on to play in the State playoffs where they were eliminated in round-robin play.

The eventual State Champion Lionville (from Southeast PA) made it to within a game of Williamsport but lost in the Regional Championship game to the Delaware state champions.

It makes you realize just how hard it is to even get to Williamsport as a participant and why you have to feel for those State College kids from the 2001 team who were denied that opportunity because a team from New York disregarded the rules.

Our kids didn't have long to think about the loss at Sectionals as they entered the Joe M. Sheetz Memorial Tournament in Altoona in late July.

The boys found a way to get refocused and defeated their archrivals from Tri-County both in pool play and in the championship game coming from behind late in both games to end their Little League careers with a tournament championship. The parents were probably more saddened that the season ended than the kids, as it was a fun way to share a summer.

I loved being 12. I still dreamed of being an astronaut, inspired by the Apollo Moon landings of that era. I built model ships and model planes; was the quarterback of the "Jets" in the Penn Hills midget football league; was just learning how to play hockey; and like my father and older brother, I was a baseball player.

I look back at that time with the fondest of memories. I hope that my son and his teammates, while disappointed that they didn't realize the dream of playing in Williamsport, will always look back at their time in Little League with smiles and great memories. They should all feel a sense of accomplishment for what they did achieve, the friendships they made, and the life lessons they learned.

The nice thing about living in Central PA is that getting to Williamsport, albeit as a spectator, is still a dream that can be realized again and again.



Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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