Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012
Outside the Little League Museum on Friday afternoon, the Keystone Little League team from last year that came to the Little League World Series rolled up in a stretch Hummer limo to come support the Mid-Atlantic champs from Parsippany, N.J., at their 3 p.m. game against the Southwest champs from San Antonio, Texas.
"They're all coming to support the Mid-Atlantic team today (Friday)" Amy Breon said. Breon is the mother of Landon Breon, who lead the team in the Little League World Series in 2011 with the most RBIs.
The Keystone Little League team were the Mid-Atlantic champs last year, the first local team to appear in the Little League World Series since Newberry Little League did in 1969, and packed the stadium full with over 40,000 people at some of their games.
"Last year there was a lot of pressure on them and they didn't really get to enjoy themselves," assistant coach Justin Kline said. "We brought them here today to let them have some fun."
All of the members from the Keystone team were glad to be back in South Williamsport and were excited to cheer on the Mid-Atlantic team even though they didn't know anyone on it.
"It's only 30 miles for us so we figured we'd come up and show our support," assistant coach Chip Miller said.
The limo was all Kline's idea according to the team. He wanted them to arrive in style.
"We came down here as a team and I wanted them to enjoy the moment," Kline said.
The team certainly enjoyed themselves as they hoped out of the stretch Hummer limo and headed down to Lamade Stadium to cheer on their fellow Mid-Atlantic champs.
A member of the Little League Board of Directors best summed it up before introducing the ESPN broadcasting personality: "his passion, honesty and enthusiasm has shaped the lives of Little Leaguers all over the world."
The statement was spoken on behalf of the career of Dick Vitale who, alongside Southwest Airlines Senior Executive Ron Ricks, was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence during a pregame ceremony at Lamade Stadium on Saturday evening in South Williamsport.
"Thank you from the bottom of my heart," said Vitale. "I am an absolute blessed guy and have been very fortunate."
Ricks was honored to be included in the Little League family.
"It is a humbling thing to be linked to such a great organization as Little League International," said Ricks. "When I hear 'Field of Dreams,' it is here right now in Williamsport."
"Thank you. This is such a great honor," added Ricks.
Ricks played in the 1962 Little League World Series for the South Region champions from Del Rio, Texas.
"The Little League Hall of Excellence honors people who played Little League as a kid and have continued to be a positive role model to kids around the globe," said a member of the Little League Board of Directors. "These two will join role models such as George W. Bush, Cal Ripken Jr. and Joe Biden."
Vitale grew up playing Little League in Garfield, N.J., and was a great pitcher back in the day. Since then, the 73-year-old has remained devoted to helping children all over the country pursue their passions. He is dedicated to fighting cancer and supports the Dick Vitale Scholarship fund which benefits passionate athletes that need financial assistance to attend college. He is currently writing a book about Little League and all proceeds will benefit cancer research.
"I am blown away by the generosity of everyone here," said Vitale. "I am in 11 Hall of Fames now and I cannot jump, shoot, catch or throw. If it can happen to me it can happen to you."
The crowd busted into laughter as Vitale cracked jokes during his speech. His thankfulness for his main "team"--his family--was evident throughout his speech.
"My family is the most important thing in my life," said Vitale. "I would not be where I am without my wife of 42 years, my daughters and son-in-laws and my five grandchildren."
He ended by telling Little Leaguers all over the world to be proud of all their accomplishments, to be good to people and to never believe you can't.
"You're awesome baby with a double A," were Vitale's concluding words.
Philadelphia Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz stopped by the Little League World Series on Friday to watch the Latin America champions from Aguadulce, Panama, play against the Middle East-Africa representatives from Lugazi, Uganda.
"You just need to have fun and work hard," Ruiz said as he was giving advice to the Latin America Little League team. He surprised them in the dugout before the game.
Ruiz was also impressed with the MEA team and how well they performed in their first game. He was so impressed that he wanted to show his support by giving the MEA coach a ball autographed by himself.
Ruiz played Little League Baseball in Panama when he was a kid, but was a few months short of the cut-off date when his team went to South Williamsport for the Little League World Series in 1993. The team lost in the championship game to Long Beach, Calif.
Ruiz left Latin America with some advice from a pro. "Working on fundamentals is the most important thing for a young player," Ruiz said.
He watched most of the game in the dugout, cheering the Latin American team on. Ruiz will be watching the Latin American team all throughout the World Series, according to Latin American pitcher Julio Goff, who lives near Ruiz.
On Sunday, 100 Little Leaguers from leagues based in Union City, Scranton, Norristown, and Lancaster, Pa., were treated to a day at the Little League World Series as part of Dick's Sporting Goods "Day at the Park" event. Dick's teamed up with former Major League Baseball All-Star Brian Jordan, who played for 15 seasons, to host the event.
In addition, one player selected from each of the four leagues threw out the first pitch alongside Jordan at the 2:00 game between Petaluma, California Little League of the West and Goodlettsville Tennessee Little League of the Southeast.
Jordan was here last year as well for the tournament, when he threw out the first pitch for a game.
"It was truly a thrill," he said.
He said he was excited to see the large crowds that gather to watch these games, with people packing the hill at Lamade Stadium to get a good view.
Jordan said he was extremely excited to come here again and "see the smiles on the kids' faces."
"I jumped at the chance," he said. "It's going to be fun."
Jordan said he is excited for the kids to see the level of play that is always present at the tournament, giving them the inspiration to try and get to South Williamsport.
Jordan had to be inspired himself when he was younger, after he got hit in the face on a pitch during a game. It was his dad that persuaded him to keep going, and now that is his message for kids.
"Just encouraging our kids to get back in there," he said.
While on the complex, Jordan was also swept up by the Uganda craze. He said he talked to Uganda coach Richard Stanley, and he said the team has inspired him just as he tries and inspires others. He said that after talking to the Uganda coach, he is inspired to travel there and help train and coach kids. He said he would really like to see other Major League players help the Uganda team succeed.
Jordan setup the Brian Jordan Foundation, aimed at allowing kids to grow and mature in a supporting environment, according to the organization's website.
"The foundation is dedicated to fostering the building of healthy minds and strong bodies," their website says.
Since the creation of his organization, Jordan said he would also like to build a baseball academy of some nature. "My main goal is to build a center of excellence," he said. "We have to find a way to get these kids hope." He views the center of excellence as a safe haven where kids can come to.
Whatever the future may hold for Jordan, he is going to continue to inspire kids and "get them to believe in themselves."