Tag Archives: Little League World Series

From Williamsport To Westport: Last Inning For Baseball Stars

Six years ago, 11 6th and 7th grade baseball players mesmerized Westport.

The youngsters battled their way through through local, state and regional competition. They won in blowouts, and in nail-biting fashion.

They kept winning — all the way to the Little League World Series finals, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

In 2013, Westport Little League All-Stars (front from left) Tatin Llamas, Chris Drbal and Chad Knight, plus Harry Azadian (rear) celebrated one of their many wins.

The dream ended in the championship game — on national TV — but they returned home to a heroes’ welcome.

It was a fantastic run. Unfortunately, too many times in youth sports, success at an early age is a recipe for disaster later on.

All that attention turns their heads. Other kids catch up — and surpass them. They discover other interests. Or they burn out.

Not every 12-year-old gets interviewed by ESPN. Harry Azadian did.

Thankfully, that is definitely not the case here.

Six years later, the Westport Little League All-Stars have become stars of the Staples High School baseball team.

Two years ago, they won the state LL (extra large schools) championship. This year, they’re battling for it again.

It’s a bittersweet time for them — and their parents. Four of the 11 players are seniors (the other 7 graduated last year). They’ve been together since they were 9 years old.

Soon — hopefully later rather than sooner, but in a single-elimination tournament, you never know — they will play their last game together.

Drew Rogers (7) and Chad Knight (27) celebrate. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)

It’s an especially emotional time for Tim Rogers. He was their head coach, from those 9-year-old days through Williamsport, then beyond in travel baseball.

He’s watched with pride — and helped immensely — as his son Drew, and fellow seniors Harry Azadian, Chad Knight, Charlie Roof, have grown as baseball players.

And grown up, from boys into young men.

Rogers is proud of many things. One is that they handled that Little League World Series experience so well. Despite the demands of the sport — and the media — they were still kids. They met other players from around the world. They hung out, and made friends. 

Enjoying the 2013 parade, in the streets of Williamsport.

Then they took that experience, and brought it into the rest of their lives far beyond Williamsport.

Rogers is also proud that they have continued to play — and love — baseball. No one burned out. No one quit. No one peaked as a 12-year-old.

He is proud that 2 years ago — when other All-Stars, including Matt Stone, Tatin Llamas, Max Popken, Chris Drbal and Alex Reiner were still playing together — Staples beat 4-time defending state champion Amity High 5-1, in the LL title game.

Four years after the Little League World Series: pure joy, as Staples stops 4-time defending champion Amity High in the state class LL final.

All along, Rogers says, “they’ve found a way to win. They’re deep as a team, but that winning mentality is something intangible.”

He’s proud that they have become leaders. His son, Azadian and Knight are captains of this year’s Wreckers. They’re passing their competitiveness and values on to the younger players.

Rogers is proud that the Little League World Series finalists remained poised and humble. Ever since Williamsport, whenever they’re interviewed, they’ve put baseball in perspective.

Rogers may be proudest though that the longtime teammates still love being together. Through all their success — and occasional disappointments — they’ve remained close friends.

Captains (from left) Drew Rogers, Chad Knight and Harry Azadian, with Staples coach Jack McFarland. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)

Staples’ Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference is a brutal league. The Wreckers have had to fight for what they’ve gotten, every year.

This spring, they finished with the best record. On Wednesday night they avenged a regular season defeat to Fairfield Ludlowe by winning the FCIAC championship in storybook fashion.

Jake D’Amico — one of those younger players — drove in the winning run. On a 3-2 pitch. With 2 outs. In the bottom of the last inning.

Knight pitched a complete game, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 5.

Chad Knight (center) jumps for joy, as the Wreckers race onto the field after their dramatic FCIAC title win. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)

The final quest — the state championship — starts Tuesday.

Graduations are always wonderful, and hard. For Rogers — who just turned 50, and saw his oldest son graduate from college — watching Drew and his baseball teammates march down the aisle, and out of high school, will be “one more step in my process,” he laughs.

So right now, he — and all the other parents, who have been together through so much and so long — are hoping the season lasts as long as it can.

So do the boys of so many summers.

The FCIAC champion 2019 Staples High School baseball team. (Photo copyright Chris Greer)

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

“06880”‘s New Header Honors Little Leaguers — And Westport

Like our new header photo?

It’ s courtesy of Chip Stephens.

The longtime Westporter snapped this great shot moments ago, as the parade honoring Westport’s 4th-in-the-world Little League all-stars — and the state champion 11-year-old softball girls — wound its way from Main Street to Jesup Green.

“I never saw such togetherness and positive spirit in 06880 in my time,” Chip says — meaning the town, not the blog.

Though, come to think of it, all the comments on “06880” about our town’s newest heroes have been all warm and fuzzy, too.

Just as they should be.

Meanwhile, here’s another view (hover over it to enlarge). Photographer Jeb Backus says, “As a 3rd-generation Westporter living here for 50 years, this was the most special town event I have ever attended. Absolutely amazing.”

LL parade - Jeb Backus

Thank You, Guys!

We owe the Westport Little League all-stars some huge thanks.

Thank you for making this such a fun month. You had a great ride, and we were proud to be along.

Thank you for never giving up. You won a ton of games in a lot of ways. Wednesday night’s was heartbreaking. Friday’s was breathtaking. Today’s was tough. But you were in it to win it every day, every inning of the way.

Thank you for representing your town, your families — and yourselves — astonishingly well. It’s never easy having the national spotlight on you — let alone having it for so long, when you’re all of 12 years old. You carried yourselves with amazing poise and grace. Countless college and pro athletes should take their cues from you.

Thank you for having such a good time. Your pure enjoyment of your sport was evident every time you took the field, stood at bat, or hung around the dugout. You played for all the right reasons. Including the most important: to have fun.

We’ll welcome you home. We look forward to watching many more of your games — in all the sports you play, and all the activities you do.

Thanks again. You rock our world.

 

What A Ride To Williamsport!

The Westport Little League all-stars have inspired fans all over the country.

Perhaps none more so than in their own backyard.

Literally.

Alert “06880” reader/avid fan Melissa Augeri reports:

Many families, coaches and Little Leaguers have been following the Westport team all summer. From Bristol to Williamsport, many have traveled to support their town and neighbors.

A handful of these kids have been back and forth from Williamsport to Westport in the last 2 weeks. To them, this 12-and-under team is like the major leagues.

Especially the younger ones. My son — a 4th grader — went last week to Williamsport. He watched them practice, and met the team. They were gracious, and are great role models for the younger boys.

Tim Rogers, his fellow coaches and the boys are making us proud by showing poise, handling the pressure and the spotlight with good, positive attitudes and sportsmanship.

So why not take a bus trip to today’s US championship game?

Little league bus trip

This morning’s ride was organized by a few Westport Little League coaches who live on Caccamo Lane, around the corner from the Rogers family.

Many of the kids are from this neighborhood

Six of the dads in the photo above are Westport Little League coaches. Every boy played or has played. The support is outstanding.

Meanwhile, Rob Stone just sent this photo of the Williamsport stadium. It’s 2 hours before game time — and already filling up.

Little League stadium - Rob Stone

Bride Dressed In Black Throws Bouquet To Little Leaguers

I’ve never heard of the band Bride Dressed in Black. (Go figure.)

But, judging from their website — once you get through the the “Warning! Offensive Content!” page — they’re legit.

They’re “a unique and original sounding band blending hip/hop, rock and funk into one thunderous sound.” They’ve earned “rave reviews” by the likes of Gary Van Scyoc (John Lennon’s bass player), Mike Tarsia (Grammy Award-winning recording engineer) and Paul Lewis (2-time Grammy-nominated producer).

They don’t seem to have any Westport ties.

But they’ve jumped on the Westport Little League bandwagon.

They just cut this congratulations-and-good-luck video — called “You Can’t Stop Me” — honoring our boys:

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Take that, Chula Vista!

Just Another Day At The Park

You wouldn’t know it from this picture —

Westport Little League at dinner - Rob Stone

— but these kids just pulled off one of the most unbelievable comebacks in the history of the Little League World Series.

No, of any baseball team at any level.

Make that the entire sports world.

So what do they do to celebrate?

Have a nice, relaxing dinner.

And get ready to do it all again tomorrow.

(Photo by Rob Stone)

Holy S–t!

I thought the 1969 Mets season was the epitome of incredible, exciting, unbelievable baseball.

Westport’s Little League all-stars make that year look like…well, there are no words.

There simply are no words.

Except: Amazing!

In the midst of all of today's craziness, Rob Stone took this shot of Westport's faithful.

In the midst of all of today’s craziness, Rob Stone took this shot of Westport’s faithful.

Report From Williamsport

As the Westport Little League all-stars enjoy a day off following last night’s 3-2 opening-round win, Rob Stone — father of catcher Matt Stone — provides this glimpse into life in the limelight:

The boys are treated like rock stars whenever they are outside the players’ residences. They’re mobbed by young kids for autographs and photo ops, or doing media meetings or other events.

In between, they do what they really want: play baseball in these beautiful parks.

They have a night off tonight, and don’t play until Sunday (2 p.m., ABC-TV). We had a team family dinner — it’s a rare thing for us to see them for more than 20 minutes.

Noah Plantamuro (the ace pitcher from Edgewood, who eliminated Westport in the 10-and-Under state tournament) was down to see the Little League World Series. The Westport team has taken him in. He is a terrific kid, a great baseball player and now part of the gang. This is absolutely what youth sports should be about.

Leaving dinner tonight, enjoying life as 12-year-old rock stars.

Leaving dinner tonight, enjoying life as 12-year-old rock stars.

Westport’s In The Little League World Series. Sort Of.

As Westporters follow Fairfield’s run through the Little League World Series, we can take some pride — a teeny, tiny bit — in reflected glory.

ESPN host Chris McKendry lives in Westport. She’s married to Eduardo Andrade, president of the Westport Library (and a Westport Little League coach). Their son Drew — a Little Leaguer — is entering 2nd grade.

Fairfield’s squad was trained by Westport resident Mike Porzio, owner of The Clubhouse in Fairfield. His son Michael is also a Little Leaguer (rising 3rd grader).

Okay, Westport’s not really in Williamsport. But some of us are close.