In 1980, the Little League Baseball® World Series field featured eight teams; four from the United States, and four international teams. That was the last time Iowa’s Grandview Little League team appeared in the Little League World Series, a run that continues to impact the team as they return to Williamsport 38 years later.
Jim Perkovich was a member of that 1980 team, who has remained involved with his former club as a member of the Grandview Little League grounds crew. Mr. Perkovich has since befriended the players and coaches on the team, telling stories of his own experiences in Williamsport and offering advice.
“Jim has been a real spokesperson for our team as far as getting us prepared,” said Grandview Little League Manager Matt Kunert. “He’s been real helpful as far as what to look for, what to expect; he’s real excited for us.”
Grandview Little League was put the test early into the Midwest Region Tournament, losing its first game to North Dakota and putting the team on the brink of elimination. It would go on to win the next four games, which included beating that same North Dakota team, 7-4, in the Midwest Region Championship game.
“That (win) says a lot about the boys,” said Mr. Kunert, “We let them know we thought we were the best team there.”
Mr. Kunert also credited Mr. Perkovich in helping to keep the players’ spirits up after that initial loss.
“The kids are buying into his stories,” he said. “I think it helped us push a little harder to get here.”
Mr. Perkovich will be with the team for the entirety of its Little League World Series run, and will be dressed in full uniform. He gifted the team a memento from Grandview Little League’s 1980 World Series team: a bat deemed “Thumper,” which the players keep with them in the dugout.
“They (the players) treat him like he’s another player on the team,” Mr. Kunert said. “He’s got that young spirit and mentality that the kids can grasp.”
Grandview Little League will be taking on Staten Island’s Mid Island Little League in its first matchup on Thursday, a team that is coming off a Mid-Atlantic Championship game where pitcher Greg Bruno threw a perfect game.
“A lot of them (the players) have seen and heard about the perfect game,” said Mr. Kunert when asked about his next opponent. “We’ve faced a lot of good pitching all the way through districts to regionals and have been pretty successful.”
Mr. Kunert recognized that the perfect game may add some extra nerves in his dugout, but vehemently stressed that this would not affect their performance.
“We just let them know we’re real confident in them, and they’re confident in themselves,” he said. “We think we’re one of the best teams in the U.S., so I hope that’s sinking into them.”