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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thousands Celebrate LL Hometown Heroes

By James Lomuscio

It was a hometown scene Norman Rockwell only could have hoped for: thousands lining Main Street, some cheering from rooftops, many waving blowup baseball bats and all displaying exuberant appreciation for the the 12- and 13-year-olds who made Westport proud in the Little League World Series.

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Fans of all ages, some with homemade signs, lined Westport’s Main Street for the parade. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

The players, now the equivalent of rock stars, yet seemingly as humble as boys can come, entered the history books in the summer of 2013. Together they made their team No.1 in the state, No. 1 in New England, and then, it was off to Williamsport, Pa. where after 10 days of holding the town spellbound, they put Westport on the map as the No. 2 team in the nation and No. 4 in the world.

With the uniformed boys on a float, today’s parade wound from Town Hall on Myrtle Avenue down Main Street, across Post Road East to Jesup Green where First Selectman Gordon Joseloff cheered the boys, as well as the girls’ Little League team which took No. 1 for the state in July.

Joseloff also praised the coaches and the parents, plus Carl McNair, president of Westport Little League Baseball, whom he presented a proclamation declaring Aug. 26 Westport Little League Day.

“Boys, you made Westport proud,” Joseloff said from the Jesup Green bandstand in front of which more than 1,000 who had gathered. ” ...You will always be Westport’s champions.”

Joseloff added that he, like a number in town, have fond memories of playing in Little League as a boy but never with such achievement.

“You made us all kids again in the shining moments of 2013,” Joseloff said.

Joseloff also read an email he had received at Town Hall from a man in Kansas who referred to the team as “some of the greatest ambassadors you could ever hope to produce” on the national stage. The man was referring to Thursday night’s come from behind game against Sammamish, Wash. Down 12 to 5, the team had rallied to win the game by 13 to 12.

The celebration also brought out a roster of political leaders who offered their praise for the team: U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Congressman Jim Himes, state Rep. Gail Lavielle, who read a state General Assembly proclamation honoring the team, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, and state Sen. John McKinney.

“It was a magical summer, and this is a celebration of it,” said Tim Rogers, team manager, whose son Drew is one of the all stars. “To get as far as we did takes a lot, and the kids played with character, effort, sportsmanship and a never-say-die attitude. They deserve to celebrate.”

Also honored were team coaches Tom Whalen and Btett Reiner, whose son Alex is on the team.

As he waited for the parade to begin, the team’s star player Chad Knight, who even had received a shout out from the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera at the start of one of the games, described playing in the series as the realization of a dream.

“It’s just a dream come true for all of us,” he said.“To get as far as we did was a dream come true.”

He said the most memorable part of the series was when his team came from behind Thursday after being down 12 to 5 against Washington.

“When we were down, as a team we worked hard to get back,” Chad said. “We kept each other’s head up.”

Player Ricky Offenberg, who hit two out of the park during the series, agreed that Friday night against Washington was the highlight.

“The whole team worked hard, and we never gave up,” he said. “It showed a lot of character.”

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Posted 08/27/13 at 12:40 AM



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