The team of Moreton Bay baseballers who played on the world stage are settling back into life at home.
Head coach Keith Land says it’s been a bit of an adjustment for the team 11 and 12-year-old players going from playing in front of thousands at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to starting the baseball season back home last weekend.
The Brisbane North Baseball Little League team, drawn from the Redcliffe Padres, Narangba Demons and Pine Rivers Rapids baseball clubs, made history in June, booking a berth at the 2022 Little League Baseball World Series, which celebrated its 75th year this year.
In August, Fletcher Adams, Archie Baert, Aaron Bell, Jacky Byrne, Mason Clem, Chase Crew, Alonso Zaire Griffin, Xavier Honsa, Logan Lokeni, Archer Petersen, Keita Tsujinaka, Tirrell Waiwai, Khyden Wilson and Tyler Wilson embarked on the trip of a lifetime, going up against 19 of the best teams in the world.
Yesterday Moreton Bay Regional Council officially acknowledged their achievements in a ceremony and afternoon tea at the Padres’ home ground at Kippa-Ring.
Keith said the players were honoured to receive certificates and Moreton Bay caps, as well as a commemorative plaque for each club, from Mayor Peter Flannery, Cr Sandra Ruck (Div 5), Cr Mick Gillam (Div 8) and Cr Yvonne Barlow (Div 7).
“It was just lovely to be recognised,” Keith says.
The team played a feisty game in the first round of the World Series against Canada after a two-and-a-half-hour weather delay, with the scoreboard (7-0) not reflecting the class the Aussies displayed on the field.
It was followed by 12-7 defeat by Italy in their second game, which put them out of competition, but Keith says the boys did the Moreton Bay Region proud.
“(Little League) told all the players at the start not to worry if they didn’t win a game,” he says.
|“There’s two million players in 180 countries and they’re the best 250 players in the world.|
“And we’re the first team in Brisbane to ever do this.”
Action off the field
Local baseball fields are a far cry from Pennsylvania, where Keith says the team – including assistant coaches Chris Clem and Shane Wilson – made memories to last a lifetime.
|“A lot of things happened off the field – it’s a baseball event but there’s a lot off the field,” he says.|
“We were over there for three weeks and in the end, we only played just over three games.”
Among their adventures was a trip to Pittsburgh to watch a match between the Pirates and the Atlanta Braves organised by Chris Clem.
“Chris used to play for the (Cleveland) Indians (now the Guardians) and the guy who recruited him is now with the Braves and organised us 25 free tickets.”
Chris’s contact came through again when the Aussies found themselves on a bus to the game with the team from Japan, who were planning to buy tickets at the stadium.
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It was an act of generosity that forged firm friendships and led to the teams putting on an exhibition match at a suburban Little League ground.
“It was just middle America,” Keith laughs.
“The locals heard what was happening and came down to watch, then they put on a barbecue for us.
“It was real grassroots baseball in America.”
Taste of wiffleball
They also played a wiffleball game with young patients with disabilities at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre, joined by World Series Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who played 24 series.
Keith says it was a highlight of their trip away.
“Our players teamed up with them to help them play.
“One of our boys was with a little girl who’d had an aneurism and came out of surgery with a serious disability – he kept holding her hand.
“We had lunch at the local YMCA and he sat with her and fed her lunch – her parents were crying.
|“Another mum told us her son said it was the best day of his life.|
“If you leave that sort of mark on the world, I reckon you’ve had a pretty good life.”
Meeting the stars
The Aussie team also got to rub shoulders with World Series stars the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles when they visited Williamsport for a game.
“We met them at the airport and then there were thousands of people at the stadium waiting for them to walk in and our boys got to walk in with them and people were asking them for autographs.”
Keith says the team’s international success has been good for local baseball too.
“Our three clubs have probably increased their numbers in that age group by about 30-40 percent.
“Kids are going ‘oh wow, maybe I could give that a go’.”
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