The Maine event
State returns to the Little League Baseball World Series for the first time in 34 years, and the guys on the team have absolutely nothing to lose


By Mark Rogoff

They really shouldn’t be here. They certainly deserve it, but they just don’t seem like they belong. It took a handful of unexpected wins, a ton of luck and a very good sense of humor.

You see, the New England region champs from Westbrook, Maine lost their first three pool play games at the regional tournament. Just like the Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series against the Yankees, the Westbrook All-Stars were presumed done. They were finished. They were making plans to go back-to-school shopping at their local W.B. Mason.
On being from Maine:

Manager Rick Knight: “Unfortunately, I do think we get the stigma that we’re sort of backwards and a little behind. Some of that is a misnomer. I would like people to think of this team as kids from Maine are the type of kids who are going to make Maine proud by being very polite, by being good sports, by enjoying the game, and just being there for the love of the game.”

Outfielder Reid Coulombe: “We’re just like any other state. We might not be the biggest populated. We can do just as much as any other place. I don’t see why people think California has better ballplayers. We’re just the same way. We might not be able to play 24-7 – the weather certainly doesn’t permit that. But we got good hockey players. We’re just a regular state like everybody else.”

All but down and out, they miraculously squeezed into the semifinals after winning the round robin finale against Rhode Island 3-0 and having all the tie-breaking dominoes fall into place. Yes, the Westbrook All-Star advanced to single-elimination play with a 1-3 record.

After an improbable 6-4 win over favorite Connecticut in the semi-final match, a 7-2 victory over Rhode Island in the championship put them in the 59th Little League Baseball World Series. They became just the third team in Maine history to make the annual August tourney for Little Leaguers after outscoring their regional opponents by a mere three runs at 19-16.

All-Stars from East Augusta Little League of Augusta (1971) and Suburban Little League of Portland (1951) are the only other lobster lads to make it to South Williamsport.

“It was sort of a roundabout way, but in the long run it looked like it worked out,” said Westbrook manager Rick Knight.

Indeed it did.

They made it to north-central Pennsylvania with eerily similar looks to that of the Bad News Bears.

They made it here with humor like that of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

They made it here with resiliency and character that only they and the 2004 Red Sox could ever display.

So welcome back to the World Series, Maine. Welcome back.

The Westbrook All-Stars are, without a doubt, the real-life version of the Bad News Bears with a touch of self-proclaimed Red Sox “idiocy.”

“I’m the idiot of this team,” says outfielder Reid Coulombe, who keeps the team loose with his comedy sketches.

“I think that would be pretty accurate,” says outfielder Jarred Martin of the Bad News Bears label. “But we don’t beat up people, we just beat up ourselves.”

Added Reid: “I say I’d be one of their better players. I think I’m a little less bad than they are. I don’t get in as much trouble…but I can. I can if I wanted to.”

Most of the kids – Reid included – have long, shaggy hair that hasn’t been cut in months. Some of the kids – Reid included – are big-time jokesters…and some are dancers.

When bored, Jarred often shows off his dancing moves to his teammates in the dorm. The “cripwalk” is his best move, one that leaves his wanna-be dancing teammates in the dust.

“I’ll be in the room and say, ‘Dance contest going on!,’” he said. “Zach (Collett) will then come out doing his little river dance. It will always end up with me saying, ‘You got served.’”

In other words, Zach doesn’t dance so well…at least in comparison to Jarred.

Then there’s Reid, whose lexicon and sense of humor can be compared to that of Jeff Foxworthy.

“It’s not really practical jokes,” he said. “It’s more of just stand-up comedy. I like to write and make up my own jokes. [My teammates] are my critics. They tell me if it’s good or not. Most of the time they’re like, “Whatever.’ Some of the time I actually make up good ones.

“I’m an easy-going guy. I’m easy to get along with. I’m kind of superstitious. If something’s working – like my long hair – I keep it. If we start losing, I shave it. I’m kind of an odd person.”

All kidding aside, the Maine kids are at the World Series of Little League Baseball. They have nothing to lose and they are here to complete.

Manager Rick admits they are happy to just be here. That doesn’t mean, however, they’re going to mail it in.

“Personally I just think it’s the icing on the cake,” he said. “I think we’re already winners because we got here. Even if they don’t win a game, everybody would still be very proud of the fact they made it to the World Series.

“If we do win a game, I would certainly be happy. As long as we compete and make the games close, you never know.”

Even if they go down in their first two games of pool play, don’t count them out. If it happened before, it can happen again. One win, and who knows, they could be in.

One thing is for sure: the team is very appreciative of being here and proud to be representing that state of Maine.

“We as coaches are trying to tell these kids, ‘Now that you’ve won this, you have to live up to it,’” Rick said. “When people stop them when they’re walking by and they say, ‘Congratulations,’ you don’t walk by and nod. You stop, look them right in the eye and say, ‘Thank you very much.’ And if they have to do that one hundred times a day, that’s fine. That’s something you need to do. As a team we need to show respect. We need to show that we’re grateful.”

The magic of the Maine Bears began Saturday at Volunteer Stadium vs. the Southeast champs from Lafayette, Louisiana. Barring the outcome of that contest or the games to come, don’t count these guys out.

“I’ve coached a number of teams over the years, and the one thing that impresses me about this team is that they have the ability to come back,” Rick said. “They were down a couple of tough games in the district tournament and in the state tournament. It didn’t faze them. They never got down. They always believed they could win. They came back in a couple of games. I like their resiliency and their ability to come back. There are a lot of similarities to the Red Sox. I wouldn’t call them ‘idiots.’ But at times I certainly say to myself, ‘Hmm, there are a lot of similarities there because we do have a lot of characters on this team. There are a lot of free spirits out there.”


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