Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date: Friday, Aug. 17, 2012
The phrase “there is more to life than just winning” describes the attitude of the Ramstein, Germany Little League team to a tee.
While plowing their way through the regional tournament with continuous wins, the boys and families of the Germany Little League team have made it clear the friendships formed through baseball and the acts of kindness they have performed to help other players live their dreams are just as important as how many runs they score each game and whether they win or lose.
Thirteen boys make up the easy-going Germany Little League team. However, unlike most other teams, these boys have not grown up in one specific location. Each of these boys have parents who are in the United States Air Force, United States Army or work for the United States Department of Defense. Because of this, they have lived all over the globe.
“I have lived in six different places over the past 19 years,” said manager Eric Vincent. “It’s kind of the norm for all of us.”
Vincent has been coaching baseball and softball for 16 years now and added that most of these kids move every two to three years. Because of this, most of these young players have only been playing with each other since May, something out of the ordinary to see here at South Williamsport where teams have been playing together since they were 8-years-old.
Despite the many fresh faces to the Germany Little League team, Vincent says the team has a special bond because they all have parents in the military and move around a lot. This is something many young adolescents never experience and thus cannot relate to. Six players have parents in the United States Air Force, four are in the United States Army and three work for the United States Department of Defense.
“The boys on the team are from all over. Only two were actually born in Germany,” said Vincent. “It was funny, when the boys were asked where their hometown is, most didn’t know what to say.”
Ethan Vincent, the son of manager Eric, agreed that he and his teammates have a special bond and friendship because of the life they live.
“If someone misses one practice, it feels like it has been a year since we last saw them because of how close we all are,” said Ethan Vincent.
Though most boys see each other every day, some do not see their parents as often. For some families, being a parent in the military can make it difficult to make games. For Justin Wilson, one of Germany’s star players, this is known all too well.
Fortunately, his father was able to coordinate flying in from Afghanistan to make it to South Williamsport to support his son and team’s journey here at the 66th annual Little League World Series.
“It’s amazing to be here,” said Marquis Wilson, Justin's father, who is an Air Force Master Sergeant who left for a year long stint back in June. “My son has always talked about this being his dream and it’s incredible to be here.”
“It feels really good knowing he is here,” added Justin. “I hadn’t seen him in two months so I was very excited when he told me he was coming.”
Although Wilson’s father made it here, it wasn't necessarily easy getting approval from higher ranked officials.
“It took some work but I am glad everything worked out,” added Marquis. “I am flying back out on the 31st, my birthday, to head back to Afghanistan for another 10 months."
Though he has not seen his family in over two months, he said he talks to his wife and four children every day.
A few other parents were unable to make games overseas because of their jobs, as well. Some parents had a permanent change in station within the past few months. Because of this, some parents moved to the United States while their sons stayed over in Europe to play baseball. Fortunately, most have been able to make the trek to South Williamsport to watch their sons live their dream.
For families and children who give up things people take for granted, such as time with their family, they are constantly doing what they can to give back to the community.
During Germany’s regional stint overseas, the team played many teams whom are less fortunate than themselves. According to Coach Vincent and other parents, some of the teams were playing with one bat, no helmets and tennis shoes. This was not okay with the parents and players on the team, and thus they decided to do something about it.
“It was heartbreaking to see young boys with so much passion for the game have so little equipment,” said a parent on the Germany team.
It was during a game against Serbia that parents first decided they wanted these young boys to be able to pursue their dreams of playing baseball with proper safety equipment.
“Some of us parents went out and bought cleats, bats, helmets and other supplies for the boys,” said a mom of a player on the Germany team. “A bunch of us took pictures, as well, and gave them to the team so they can remember these memories playing Little League.”
Players on the team feel very good knowing they are helping other boys, many of whom they have become friends with, live the dream of playing Little League baseball.
“It feels good knowing I am helping other players live their dream,” added player Kyle Glenn.
One mom who headed this act of kindness said that they plan to continue donating equipment down the road.
Though it is hard to see the conditions some less fortunate teams live in, living overseas and coming in contact with many foreign Little League teams has allowed the boys to make many lasting friendships over the years. Many of the boys have stayed in touch with friends via Facebook and have hosted teams at their homes, as well as visited friends in their home towns.
One mom talked about the time she and her family hosted some boys from the Netherlands.
“There were instant friendships made,” she said. “The language barriers didn’t matter at all. It was neat to see and they have remained friends ever since.”
After talking to players, parents and coaches of the Germany team, it is safe to say the boys from Germany are having an experience of a lifetime here in South Williamsport.
“Justin is loving every second of being here,” said Marquis Wilson. “He is making many new friends and is trading pins with other teams.”
“I told him to enjoy every second of this and I know that is certainly what he is doing,” he added. Eric Vincent and Glenn are enjoying their time, as well.
“It feels amazing to be here. This was our last year to make it so it feels good knowing we got here,” said both boys.
As the week goes on and teams are eliminated, the boys from Germany will have participated in an experience of a lifetime while making plenty of new friends. Though some of these boys will be moving again, like Justin Wilson who will be moving with his family to a new location next August, the bonds and friendships made from playing Little League will forever hold a special place in these boys’ hearts.