‘Baseball guy’ sees dream come true at Series

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Dave Slade, left, and his wife Lois Slade, right, both of North Carolina, enjoy the experience of coming to see the Little League World Series games in person at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport on Tuesday.

After over 60 years of hoping to attend the Little League World Series, a man from North Carolina was able to watch a few games live during his visit to South Williamsport this week.

Dave Slade said he played in Little League as a child in the 1950s but never made it to the Series. It was a lifelong dream to someday visit the area in person.

This year, he came with his wife, Lois Slade.

“It’s something we have wanted to do for many years,” he said. “The whole experience has been great. This was a bucket list thing for me.”

Nothing compared to getting to walk the grounds himself.

“Just physically seeing the facility, really. You watch it on television, which we do every year, but the fact that I’m actually seeing it in person and getting the feel of what the stadiums are like in person as opposed to just on television,” he said. “The whole experience of it is something I’ll never forget.”

He said he had been sending in postcards to get tickets for the championship weekend for years.

“Then they took that over to online entry, and we’ve just never been selected,” he said.

He said he wasn’t able to stand or wait in line to get into any game.

“I’m not one to sit on the hill just because I’m older at this point,” he said.

As a lifelong fan of baseball, he has worked as a public address announcer for years.

Working as a public address announcer, he would announce the starting line ups for the games, announce batters as they come up to home plate, any pitching changes or changes in the line up during the course of the game. He would do that locally for ballparks in North Carolina.

“It would be just for the people in the stadium,” he said.

Doing this work made him some connections with others who also loved baseball and the Series.

“I was talking to the president of USA Baseball (Mike Gaski) and asked him if he had ever come up here to the Series,” he said. “He told me that he’d been up here several times, and they’re involved with the verification of the bats here.”

Gaski invited Dave Slade to the Series and made the arrangements for him so he could be guaranteed some seats. For two days, he was able to attend games and walk around on the hallowed ground of the Series.

“It’s been outstanding,” he said. “We had a great day yesterday.”

Lois Slade said she has loved being able to see him fulfill his dream.

“I really like baseball ever since I was a kid when my dad listened to baseball on the radio,” she said. “But it’s been great to see him here. I’m so happy he was able to do this. When we had a potential family conflict, I said, ‘It doesn’t matter, we gotta go.’ Everything worked out fine, and I’m so glad he got to be here to do this.”

He said he especially enjoyed watching the consolation game with Australia as it reminded him of a trip he’d taken to Australia years ago, but he’s happy to watch any team play.

“It’s nice just to see the kids and see their level of expertise, how they do so well for someone of their size and their age,” he said. “They make mistakes of course because they’re young, but they’re very proficient, beyond what you’d expect.”

Unfortunately, his second day ended up being rained out, so he was unable to see them play as much as he wanted, but he knew having two days meant he could see them at all.

“So, even if they don’t play anything, I just love being at the ballpark,” he said. “Even having the rain, the tarp on the field, all those crazy kids sliding down in the mud and of course the other fans … To me, it’s a ballpark. It’s relaxing, and it’s the best place to be.”

He said he’s loved baseball for his whole life.

“A friend of mine once said, ‘Oh, you’re a baseball guy.’ I definitely am. I’m a baseball guy,” he said. “Ever since I played Little League myself.”

He said when he played in the 1950s, everybody got to play.

“You never played at the level these kids are able to play at now,” he said. “It’s great to see. I’m so happy that it’s happened for me.”