'That's what Little League baseball is all about'

July 13, 2006|by ANDY MASON

Emotions were running high at Valley Little League on Tuesday evening.

Trailing West End 5-3, defending champion Valley had the bases loaded with two outs in the final inning in the winners' bracket final of the Maryland District 1 11-12 All-Star Tournament.

At the plate was Ryne Willard, Valley's hottest hitter, who had already collected three hits in the game, including a home run.

The bleachers - packed with moms, dads, cousins, neighbors and friends - were rocking.

"That's what Little League baseball is all about," Valley manager Greg Spickler said. "The place was packed and everybody was into it. That's what makes Little League baseball what it is."


That's what makes sports what they are.

Not much can bring a community together like a good ballgame between its young members.

The cars, many of which had been painted and decorated for the occasion, filled every nook and cranny around the ball field Tuesday.

I honestly had no idea what I was getting into as I arrived about 15 minutes before the first pitch. I haven't covered many youth-league games over the years and this was my first one in a while.

This, obviously, was more than just a game between kids. To fully understand its deeper meaning, I probably would have needed to spend some time in the homes of the players and fans afterward.

The best baseball in the area, without question, is played at Municipal Stadium by the Hagerstown Suns. I even have three former Suns - Baltimore's Jay Gibbons, Minnesota's Francisco Liriano and San Francisco's Matt Cain - on my fantasy baseball team. And I wish some others, such as Toronto's Vernon Wells and Texas' Michael Young (the MVP of Tuesday night's MLB All-Star Game), were also on my team.

Going to a Suns game can be great fun, especially with all the promotions. The Suns give their fans everything but the kitchen sink - until Wednesday night, when they actually gave away a kitchen sink.

The most important baseball in the area, however, is played on the Little League fields. While professional careers might not be at stake, the heart and soul of the community are.

And it doesn't truly matter who wins or loses. What matters is that there's a game to be played.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Morning Herald. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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