Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date: Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012
On your mark, get set, go!
It's that time of year again when the local population spikes as baseball fans from across the world gather in South Williamsport to cheer on their favorite teams and millions of people partake in the indescribable feeling that Little League gives off.
South Williamsport kicked off the 66th annual Little League World Series on Thursday morning in normal fashion as thousands of eager, upbeat fans filled the seats of Volunteer Stadium to watch the opening ceremony.
The energetic mood and atmosphere of the thousands of attendees at the complex matched perfectly with the sunny blue skies and perfect temperature as they filed into the stadium eagerly waiting to watch 16 talented teams from across the globe begin their quest to become Little League World Series champions.
Though just one team will earn this coveted title in the end, there wasn't a person in the stands that didn't have a smile on their face. After all, how could you not be excited when you are in South Williamsport, one of the most desired places to be during this 10-day span in late August?
"Being here in Williamsport has taken 53 years off my life," said Mike Mitzel, one of the Canadian coaches and grandfather of Steven Moretto, a Canadian player. "I feel like I am 12-years-old again. It's a dream come true to be here."
"Kids have dreams and so do grandpas. We have a great group of kids and we're happy to be here," added Mitzel.
As the opening ceremony began, the 16 regional champions entered into Volunteer Stadium as the crowd clapped along to the famous song "It's a Small World." The boys had huge smiles on their faces as they walked around the stadium and waved their hats to the crowd.
South Williamsport mayor David Lechniak opened the ceremony with a quick thank you to the families, friends and volunteers that make this annual event possible. He was then followed by a remark from Pennsylvania College of Technology president, Dr. Davey Jane Gilmour.
"I would like to welcome the 16 teams behind us to Williamsport," said Gilmour. "We must remember that each of these teams here today are already champions."
This is something most of the parents of Little Leaguers here have already accepted, and most are simply overjoyed just to be here.
"Just being here is a dream of the kids," said the father of New England's Matt Kubel. "It feels great to be here in this upbeat atmosphere and everything from here on out is just icing on the cake."
Once the introduction speakers concluded, one player and coach from each native speaking team, as well as one from the United States, came forward to recite the Little League pledge.
The crowd listened attentively to each language, some of which they understood and others of which they did not, but regardless, the crowd cheered and clapped in excitement as each player concluded.
Wade Boggs, a 2005 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, threw the first pitch to conclude the opening ceremony. Over his 18 year career, he recorded 3,010 hits and ended with a .328 career batting average.
As the ceremony concluded and the teams filed out to collect themselves before the day's games got underway, parents met up with their children and expressed how proud they are of them by taking pictures and giving them hugs.
Heather Slate, the proud mother of a player on the United States West team, said she and the other parents just arrived this morning from out west and hadn't seen their children since Sunday.
"It was a challenge to get 13 families here on time but we're here and it's amazing," said Slate.
"It's like Christmas for these boys! It's their dream summer and they are so excited to be here," she added.
During the next 10 days, die-hard Little League fans, volunteer umpires, concession stand workers, ushers and the many other people who make Little League possible will partake in the amazing and exciting journey these boys are on.
While talking with three 11- and 12-year-old boys Thursday morning, it was evident how excited fans and volunteers are to be in South Williamsport.
"I traveled seven hours to get here to Williamsport," said Bradley Patton, a 12-year-old from out west who is here for his third time. "I love watching baseball and going down the hill, and I can't wait to see the Great Lakes team play."
"It is just an energetic, enjoyable, friendly and awesome atmosphere," added Jim Mougeotte, an usher that has been volunteering here since 2005 and drives 18 hours from Florida each year to participate in the Little League World Series.
"I just love the interaction with the kids, my fellow ushers and I love baseball," he added. "It's awesome. It's hard to describe the Little League Baseball World Series if you aren't here."
The atmosphere in South Williamsport is indeed truly indescribable and being on the grounds of Little League International complex is definitely a very upbeat and exciting place to be.
It will certainly be an exciting week with a lot of unpredictable baseball to watch.