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A hero's welcome

Hundreds greet Federal Little League All-Stars as they return home

Hundreds greet Federal Little League All-Stars as they return home

August 22, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

The Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars returned to Hagerstown on Thursday evening, their bus escorted by police to North Hagerstown High School's Mike Callas Stadium, where the players and coaches were warmly greeted by a couple hundred friends and family members.

It was the culmination of a three-week trip that took Federal to the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament in Bristol, Conn., and the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

"It's a beautiful day, and that magic carpet ride, this is a wonderful conclusion to it," Federal manager Bill Abeles Jr. said. "The boys couldn't stay in their seats when the police cruisers showed up with their lights and sirens and we're blowing through every intersection."

The team received a rousing ovation as it walked into Callas Stadium.

"It was just the greatest feeling in the world," Federal player Andrew Yacyk said. "Everybody in the state and in Hagerstown is supporting us. Even the teams in the district that we beat, they're all here."

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Federal events coordinator Heather Barnhart and league president Mike Conrad emceed the ceremony, which featured several city and Washington County dignitaries.

"Here we are, gathered to welcome our World Series team. It's hard to believe this all started over two months ago," Conrad said. "To our Mid-Atlantic, Maryland state and District 1 champions, I congratulate you, and thank you for the wonderful ride this All-Star season has been. Welcome home, champions!"

Abeles introduced coaches Doug Hornbecker and Rich Ross as well as each player -- congratulating them for their efforts and telling a couple funny stories.

"The e-mails coming in to Williamsport from the young ladies around the country for Andrew ... we have them and we will post them," Abeles said as the crowd laughed.

Abeles thanked the crowd for all of its support.

"When we were in Bristol, we were so isolated and we had no sense for what was going on back here in Hagerstown, and I tell you that in Williamsport the reality set in and the Hagerstown 10th-man presence and all the support we received in Williamsport, all the fan support, we appreciate everything all of you have done," Abeles said.

Del. John P. Donoghue borrowed Yacyk's nickname in thanking Federal.

"Hagerstown, because of you guys, is now 'The Big City,'" Donoghue said. "Between you guys and Michael Phelps, Maryland had a heck of a ride this week."

Donoghue informed the team that it would get to travel to Annapolis and visit the House of Delegates and the State Senate chambers, as well as Gov. Martin O'Malley's office for a reception.

"The Governor called me ... and he wanted me to make sure (to tell you) that he absolutely is so proud of you on behalf of all of Maryland," Donoghue said.

"Not only did you put the city of Hagerstown on the map of the world, but you put the state of Maryland on the map."

Donoghue also said that Federal will get to watch a Baltimore Orioles game in the governor's box at Camden Yards next spring.

"That's crazy," Yacyk said. "This is like a dream come true. It's amazing. Even though I don't like the O's, that will be a lot of fun being there with my team."

"I had heard about it a little bit. That will be really cool, sitting in the governor's box," player Zane Schreiber said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II promised the team that "it's not over for you guys from us yet, either. ... Good things are coming, you'll enjoy it, and I'm looking forward to it."

Barnhart said a parade will be held in Hagerstown within the next two weeks, possibly on Aug. 30. It will feature Federal's All-Stars as well as the Hagerstown PONY League 14-year-old All-Stars, which reached the PONY World Series. All of the District 1 All-Star teams also will be part of the parade.

"Is this a great day in our community or what?" Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr said. "Fellows, we're all so proud of you, you've really brought our community to the limelight. You've worked real hard, you played hard and I hope you had a lot of fun and a lot of great memories."

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