2012 Little League Baseball World Series
Williamsport, Pennsylvania - August 16 - 26

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Mid-Atlantic Team Has More Than Fun and Games on Their Journey to the World Series


Author: Andrew Maksymowich

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date: Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012

There's more to the team from Parsippany, N.J., than meets the eye. Not only is there fun and games, but there are also some families on the team.

The Mid-Atlantic team has been playing together since they were 8-years-old and have been friends ever since. They even hang out when they're not thinking about baseball. Pitcher and second baseman Daniel Ruggiero likes to go swimming and play a little basketball.

Like any kids, they enjoy playing video games and ping pong. The team also really likes o play something called "bubble hockey."

"It's like foosball, but with hockey," right fielder and pitcher Kyle Phillips said. "The players swivel so you can hit the puck in the net."

All of the boys love to play this in the dorms on the Grove along with ping pong, but when it's game time, they get down to business. That includes a game-time chant that goes as follows: "What time is it? Game time. What time is it? Game time. One, two, three, Mid-Atlantic!"

"They're not going to remember the errors or the bad moments. They might remember the home runs, but they're just going to remember the experience." -- Mid-Atlantic Assistant Coach Ed Phillips

According to assistant coach Ed Phillips, Ruggiero leads the team in the chant before every game. Phillips is also the father of Kyle Phillips.

Other than the Phillips's, there are two other boys who have fathers as either a coach or manager. Coach Ramon Matti is the father of Emil Matti and manager Mike Ruggiero is the father of Daniel Ruggiero.

It's not always fun and games for these three boys, but they have gotten used to it for the most part.

"They've been with us for the past three to four weeks so it can get kind of annoying," Kyle Phillips said. "Most of the time it's fine."

Phillips isn't the only one that gets frustrated.

"It's not too bad, but they bug us a lot in the dorms," Daniel Ruggiero said.

A father can never stop being a father, whether they are the coach of their kid's baseball team or if they are coaching another team. Sometimes the father and son relationships come out during practice. This makes for an interesting practice.

"It can get a little testy sometimes on both ends during practice," coach Phillips said, "but we work through it and get it done."

Phillips being a father and a coach is very proud of his team and son for working through the relationships and testy moments during practice.

Mid-Atlantic Team Praise"I know it's hard on them, but I couldn't be prouder of them," coach Phillips said. "They're not going to remember the errors or the bad moments. They might remember the home runs, but they're just going to remember the experience."

Not all of fathers on the team are the same, however.

"It's great coaching. Coaching my son is just a bonus," manager Ruggiero said.

Ruggiero has had four boys go through the Little League program and has coached all four of them, but he doesn't treat them any different from any other player. He feels he shouldn't have to give anyone special treatment.

"I treat everyone equally," Ruggiero said. "I might push my son a little bit harder, but I put all the players in a position to make the team win."

Nothing travels back home too much with the Ruggiero's either.

"I tell all my players to leave it on the field. I might talk to my wife after a tough loss, but that's about it."

What the team can't leave on the field is how they feel playing in front of thousands of people. Hardly any of the teams here at the Little League World Series have played in front of this many people or have been on TV, which is something they can all remember. Especially when their manager is dancing with Dugout, the Little League World Series mascot, on international TV.

"To see him play here is unbelievable," coach Phillips said. "Now I believe in heaven, baseball heaven that is."

Phillips has been coaching his son since he was playing T-ball, but didn't start out coaching.

"I played baseball up until my mid-30s in the semi-pros," Phillips said. "We used to travel around New Jersey after work and just play."

He started out playing when he was only 5-years-old in what was called the "cap league." They didn't have that much for young players when he was growing up.

"After I was done playing, I coached my nephew for a while and I figured coaching my son was the natural thing to do," Phillips said. "It's the best sport on the world and I love the kids."

Manager Ruggiero also played when he was growing up, which made him want to coach.

"I played in the league when I was a kid and I love teaching kids on and off the field. I hope that what I teach them on the field transfers over into school and helps them succeed in life," Ruggiero said.

The Mid-Atlantic squad plays the loser of Sunday's West/Southeast game at Lamade Stadium on Monday at 4 p.m.