1969 Newberry team plans reunion

The one thing that players from the 1969 Newberry team are looking forward to the most is not necessarily being back at Lamade Stadium 50 years after they played in the Little League World Series or riding in the Grand Slam Parade float prior to this year’s Series. Rather, it’s just being able to be around former teammates and reminiscing about what they accomplished 50 years ago.

Thinking back on that summer and getting to the Little League World Series, remembering what it was like when they came back from the Eastern Regional on a chartered bus with a police escort and other highlights from that summer are surely things that will be discussed when the Newberry Little League team from 1969 that got to the World Series gets together on Tuesday, August 13, for their 50th reunion.

“You think about it, but it kind of brings it to life when you have somebody experience it and talk about it,” former third baseman Rusty Sechler said.

“I have never attended any of the reunions, so this will be the first and probably our last,” former pitcher and shortstop Steve Karney said. “We won’t make 100.”

Sechler and Scott Peterson helped planned the 20th anniversary in 1989 in which the players all were given red bats engraved with all of their names. And for the 50th, Sechler and others have other surprises planned for the team.

The team — all minus one player who passed away — plan on going to Little League on Wednesday, August 14, before the Series gets started and replicating their team photo with Lamade Stadium as the backdrop behind them.

“It’ll be nice to see some of the guys,” former second baseman Joe Saboski said. “It will be nice to see what they’ve been up to and I’m sure there will be a lot of talk and different memories of that summer.”

For former catcher Mike Prowant, it’s the same sentiments that Saboski echoed of seeing some of his former teammates for the first time in decades.

“I haven’t seen — I’m going to guess 95% of them — since we had a 20-year reunion,” Prowant said. “Like Steve Karney, who’s working with Rusty and Donny Cohick, I haven’t seen those two guys since I was 12 years old.”

Thirty years ago, the team presented Heaps with one of the original Little League World Series jerseys from 1969 and Heaps said that Newberry Little League should hold onto it. The jersey — the only one still remaining — ended up back in Sechler’s possession after the league let it slip into a state of disarray, complete with tears and stains as it sat in the pressbox, all but forgotten amongst boxes and other items.

Now, 50 years after having worn it for the last time at Lamade Stadium, the jersey is officially framed under glass to preserve the memories of that team and will be presented during the reunion to the team by Sechler as all the members of that team and coaches are listed on the glass.

Seeing the jersey will likely transport many of the players back to that summer and the remarkable run they had to get to the Little League World Series.

The former teammates will get to relax and reminisce with one another as a DVD featuring the games plays and they get to listen to the audio broadcast from the Eastern Regional tournament in Bellevue, New Jersey, in which Newberry defeated Southington Southern, Connecticut, in the semifinals and Smithtown, New York, in the championship game.

The team will be honored with a float in the Grand Slam Parade prior to the 2019 Little League World Series and will be honored during the Series on Thursday, August 22 during the United States semifinal game.

“It was a lot of fun and a lot of good times with the guys,” Prowant said of that summer. “It was just once in a lifetime experience when I look back on it now. Probably looking back on it, it means more now than it did then. You’re just a kid playing baseball games.”

“About every year around Little League World Series time, to this day 50 years later, it just brings back memories,” former outfielder Scott Peterson said.

And surely, seeing the team again will bring back memories from five decades ago.