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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2011 > September-December > Teachable Moments: Former Little League Baseball World Series Player Relishes Exciting Moments, Applies Experiences to Life

Teachable Moments: Former Little League Baseball World Series Player Relishes Exciting Moments, Applies Experiences to Life

Teachable Moments: Former Little League Baseball World Series Player Relishes Exciting Moments, Applies Experiences to Life

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Spencer White in 2002

Understanding what it is to be a champion came at the tender age of 12 for Spencer White.

Now 21, Spence, a senior at Ithaca College in New York, reflects fondly on the summer of 2002 when he, and his teammates, from Harlem (N.Y.) Little League played in the Little League Baseball World Series.

“Going to the World Series and meeting players from all over the world was exciting,” Spence, a four-year starter at cornerback for the Ithaca College Bombers football team, said, “We were like rock stars, and we had a good time.”

Coming from Harlem, Spence said, “We all noticed right away that our team had some contrasting styles compared to the rest of the teams at the World Series.

“We hot-dogged a little more than other teams, and we wore straight brims on our hats,” Spence, the starting catcher for the Mid-Atlantic Region Champions, said. “It was a lot to take in at the age of the 12, but playing in front of the huge crowds and on TV, has helped me in the long run.”

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Spencer White, catcher for the 2002 Mid-Atlantic Region Champions from Harlem (N.Y.) Little League tries to make a play during this Little League Baseball World Series game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Spencer and his teammates finished fifth in the World Series that year, after reaching the United States Semifinal game.

The Harlem Little League (HLL) was founded in 1989 by Dwight Raiford, a former Chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors, and his wife, Iris.

In only a few seasons, the HLL program was bustling with players. In 1999, the league began play at William “Bill” Shea Friendship Ball Field. Named in honor of Mr. Shea, the longtime President of the Little League Foundation, he is credited with returning National League Baseball to New York in the form of the New York Mets.

Spence, who moved to Yonkers the year after his World Series appearance, played baseball until his freshman year in high school. As a ninth grader at Sleepy Hollow High he discovered football.

In his Junior and Senior football seasons at Sleepy Hollow, Spence earned all-league honors for his play under Head Coach Steve Borys. Several schools showed interest in him as a collegiate student-athlete, and having his sights set on a career in accounting, Spence chose to attend Ithaca College.

Football suited Spence and he has done well playing for Bombers and Head Coach Mike Welch at the NCAA Division III level. He does admit though, that learning about being a good teammate and appreciating the importance of work ethic came from his Little League coach Morris McWilliams and during his time in the Harlem Little League.

“Being part of a team helps you appreciate the sport you’re playing a lot more and has helped me learn how to prepare myself mentally and physically,” Spence, an Empire 8 Athletic Conference all-star selection, said. “Coach McWilliams is like my second dad. He’s been my coach since I was five years old, and I still talk to him a lot.

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Today, Spencer is a standout cornerback for the Ithaca (N.Y.) College Bombers football team, but he has many fond memories of his team’s trip to Williamsport nearly 10 years ago.

Game Photo Courtesy of Ithaca College Sports Information

“During the World Series, he told all of us to just go about our business and expect to win,” Spence said. “He wanted us to be confident, and for me that meant believing in myself and my teammates. Now, when I take the field, I think I’m the best player on the field and my team is better prepared than our opponents.”

On the World Series field in 2002, Spence was 2-for-11 at the plate with a .182 batting average, as Harlem Little League advanced to the United States semifinal game before losing to New England Region champion Jesse Burkett Little League from Worcester, Mass., 5-2. The team’s other loss was a 2-0 defeat to eventual World Series champion Valley Sports American Little League from Louisville, Ky.

“The best part of the World Series for me was how our whole team was so excited about playing the next day,” Spence said. “When it was lights out, we’d still be awake, cracking jokes and talking about playing the game ... We just couldn’t get to sleep.”

Overall, the team posted a 2-2 record, with wins over Southeastern Region (Southwest Forsyth Little League; Clemmons, N.C.) and Western Region (Aptos, Calif., Little League) champions.

Since his Little League days, Spence has played baseball, basketball and lacrosse, but found that his sports love is football. As a starting cornerback for the Bombers, the 5-fot-9, 175-pounder has established himself as a team leader, that lets his actions and attitude set the tone for his game.

“Football is my favorite sport,” Spence, who wears No. 4 for the Bombers, said. “Team goals are always first in my mind, so I want our team to win the Empire 8 Athletic Conference and get a good seed for the NCAA playoffs. Personally, I want to make All-American, but I’ll start with All-Conference.”

Nearly 10 years ago, when Spence was a 5-foot-1, 117-pound catcher, he had already begun working on the balance between team and individual success. Despite not having stellar batting numbers in the World Series, he knew that the ability to communicate with his pitchers and teammates, and play his position well, were more important than what he did at the plate.

Away from the field, Spence said he has fond memories of that special year, and has several special keepsakes. His mother, Natalie Hicks, kept a scrapbook of the newspaper clippings and various photos which she leafs through from time to time.

“I have a team jacket and my World Series hat from Williamsport,” Spence said. “Back then my hat size was 6-and-7/8. When I’m home, and my mom gets out the scrapbook, I’ll try my hat on to see if my head still fits into it.”

Since moving from Harlem, Spence said he has not spoken with many of his former teammates, but he knows through coach McWilliams and others that a few went on to play professional baseball in the minor leagues.

After the football season, Spence is anxiously anticipating his college graduation. He is on track to graduate in the spring (2012) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. Once he has his degree in hand, he plans to attend graduate school and pursue his ambition to become a tax accountant.

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Spencer White, second from left in front row, and the 2002 Mid-Atlantic Region Champions from Harlem (N.Y.) Little League reached the Little League Baseball World Series 13 years after the league was founded by Dwight and Iris Raiford. Mr. and Mrs Raiford have been long-time supporters of the Little League program. Mr. Raiford served as Chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors from 2001-2004.