Westport Little Leaguers Make It To Williamsport — Again!

A year ago this weekend Jeb Backus was in Pennsylvania, cheering rabidly as Westport’s team made a storied run to the Little League World Series final.

Jeb was back in Williamsport today. He was less invested in the title game — Chicago won 7-5, over Las Vegas — but was thrilled to see Westport has not been forgotten.

Way-larger-than-life banners outside Lamade Stadium honor Chad Knight, and the rest of the local team.

Little League 1 - Chady Knight by Jeb Backus

Time flies. On Monday, most of those former Little Leaguers begin their freshman year at Staples High School.

Little League 2 - by Jeb Backus

8 responses to “Westport Little Leaguers Make It To Williamsport — Again!

  1. Stephen Axthelm

    It was a magical year in which our small town achieved so much in youth sports, having great success while by most measures keeping perspective. Our girls won their first ever LL Softball State Championship. After some frustration I became again a true supporter of Little League. The current rush to year round travel teams troubles me. Many programs are now encouraging kids to skip Little League (as they promo “the world’s largest organized youth sports program”) for travel programs that are promoted as more competitive and promising for future opportunities. What is lost is that community-based experience. Travel teams that have two to three girls from four to five towns can be great for some girls but town base programs that bring families together in the stands provide a different and valuable experience.
    Steve Axthelm
    Westport Little League Softball

  2. Nancy W Hunter

    “Travel teams” sound like Canadian “Rep” teams, teams chosen to represent a large area leaving the community teams short-handed.

  3. Nick Thiemann

    Little League is great!. I umpired for many years and then coached etc. Sports and athletics are important to growing up.

    The idea though that our kids are going to become professional athletes is a dream. Athletic “scholarships” are a scam. The kids get little education and can be washed out when their sport injures them. Finally if successful their professional career life averages about three years. For some this “dream” is worth it. But is it the kid’s dream or his or her parent’s?

  4. David J Loffredo

    I agree with Ax – last year was magical because we were in it.

    This year is special though. How cool is it to see “inner city” (that’s a code word for “Black”) kids from Philly and Chicago battling it out on a Little League field?

    If you look at the racial make-up of Major League Baseball, off a high of 19% in the 70’s and 80’s – African Americans now make up only slightly more than 7% of MLB – the lowest percentage since the late 1950’s – within the decade after Jackie Robinson took the number above zero for the first time.

    I love watching our special little guys and girls do well, but the cynic in me says that with all of this specialization, year round private coaching, pseudo-professional travel teams, and the best equipment money can buy – you almost expect kids from Fairfield County, and the wealthy suburbs around Seattle and San Diego (last year), Las Vegas and Nashville (this year) – to do well.

    Will be watching this afternoon, go Chicago!

    • Nancy W Hunter

      Why the need to differentiate “racial-makeup” in this day and age?

      • Tom Allen '66

        Nancy, I think David spelled out the reason for the differentiation in this case this year. For a decade or more, the question has been asked, with the proud of legacy of African Americans in MLB and in the old Negro Leagues, where have they gone and how do we get them back? Some chose other sports, like basketball and football where scholarships, however fungible, appear to be available. Few college baseball teams in DI or II provide more than 3-4 full scholarships for baseball. Other kids who might have wanted to focus on baseball at the youth level couldn’t afford the fees required for travel leagues and personal coaches. The list of possible reasons for their dwindling numbers at all levels of baseball goes on and on. Therefore, it was great to see the teams from Philly and Chicago excel this year in Wiliamsport. This is a very significant and welcome development and was fun to watch.

        • David J Loffredo

          Thanks Tom, that was my point. As a kid growing up in Stamford, my Dad used to caddie for Jackie Robinson, so I thought it was unbelievably cool that a league dedicated solely to getting African American boys interested in baseball made it all the way to Williamsport and then all the way to the World Finals.

          If you watched the games and listened to the stories, the parents were there thanks to the generousity of current Chicago (and Philadelphia) major leaguers who then went out of their way to reach out to the kids and offer them support and encouragement (not unlike what Mariano did for Chad Knight last year).

          As I watch events like Ferguson MO play out on national tv, I realize race relations still have a long way to go in our country, and sports – specifically baseball – have always been on the forefront of change.

          We do a great job in Westport supporting other communities (I know both WLL and WSA donate both money and equipment to other leagues) – it was refreshing to see some of those teams have so much success that they were better than us this year.

  5. Nancy W Hunter

    I’m curious about American Little League travel teams. In Canada, it is required to play the regular community season before trying out for provincial or national rep teams. Being selected for a rep team still requires the player to play on the community team the following year (and then another round of rep try outs). Hockey is different: tryouts/scouting for rep teams are year round, which is very hard on community teams. Rep teams are extremely competitive and expensive, but these are the teams that North American college/university scouts watch.
    As for “living the dream” both of my bros were successful, and however short such careers can be they wouldn’t trade their experiences for the world.