Some day in the future, several players competing in this year's Little League World Series likely will become coaches.
If and when that happens, they can pull a page out of the fictional Crash Davis's book from the baseball film "Bull Durham." Davis, playing a Minor Leaguer, talks about reaching the Majors for a month and describes all the perks and how those lucky enough to reach that level basically are kings.
These Little Leaguers can, and always will, be able to relate.
Members of the Kearney, Neb., Little League walk off the field after an afternoon practice on Tuesday. The Midwest team plays its first game against Goodlettsville, Tenn., of the Southeast on Thursday night at Lamade Stadium.
In terms of treatment, this might be as close as a baseball player can get to feeling like a big leaguer without actually playing in the Majors. Players will have to buy some more luggage to take home all the free equipment they will acquire here. The free food three times a day is a nice perk too.
"I walked into the (dorm) room (Sunday) and Louisville Slugger had 22 new bats for them. They are getting new cleats, new batting gloves...it's like a little version of being in the big leagues," Fairfield, Conn., manager Bill Meury said. "I said, 'Guys, in terms of baseball it's all downhill from here unless you make it to the big leagues.'"
Meury knows what he is talking about. He played Division I baseball at Maryland before the San Diego Padres drafted him and he spent a few seasons in the minors. Rick Falkner, whose son Brett is a standout for Gresham, Ore., also played in the minors as did Nick Lubisch, who trains several Oregon players.
All three agree that life on the road to and at the Series is much better than a minor leaguer. They might be 11, 12 and 13-year olds, but in South Williamsport, these Little Leaguers are royalty.
"You have to be playing on ESPN or the MLB Network every night to get the kind of exposure these kids are getting," Lubisch said. "It doesn't get much better than this."
As far as youth baseball goes this is the ultimate. This is the big leagues for this age group. It used to be the only way a Little League team could play on national television was by reaching the world championship. Then, the regional championship game started being televised and then all Series games followed. The last two years, once a team reaches the regional semifinals it is guaranteed to be on TV.
By the time a team reaches the Series, these players really already are TV stars.
"We flew into Newark (New Jersey) and as we're sitting there, people from New York are coming up to us and seeing our shirts and asking where we're from. We tell them we're from Nebraska and they're like, 'great job, we saw you on TV and you played really well,'" Kearney, Neb., manager Brad Wegner said. "You could see the kids' eyes growing wider and it was like they started realizing how big it is."
The royal treatment is a nice reward for what has been a whirlwind summer, especially the last few weeks. On the American side, only San Antonio, Texas has been home during the last two weeks and that was just for one day after it captured the Southwest championship. After winning the title last Thursday, the McAllister Park American Little Leaguers were boarding a plane at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
The seven other American qualifiers stayed at their regional site the night they won their championships and flew in to Newark the next day before taking three-hour bus rides to South Williamsport. By the time the teams arrived, they were mighty tired.
Still, they would not change a thing. This is where they have dreamed of playing and now they are here. Now they are the Kings of South Williamsport and are reaping the benefits. Being away from home and enduring a hectic schedule is a small price to pay considering there are 7,000 other teams that would love to be in their place.
"I've been to many world series in other leagues, but it's nothing like what Little League offers," Goodlettsville, Tenn., manager Joey Hale said. "It feels like we just got here yesterday because we're having such a good time."
That is the key. Falkner played for a Gresham, Org., team that reached the West Regional tournament in 1978. He played Division I college baseball and professionally in the minors, but 34 years later he still has his jacket, shirts, scrapbooks and other memorabilia from that memorable run. That is how big this experience is.
"If they come out of here with no wins or one or two, it doesn't matter," Falkner said. "How many kids can say they got to play in the Little League World Series?" Falkner said. "When you think of the thousands and thousands of kids playing Little League every year and then think you are one of eight teams playing here it's pretty remarkable.
"You would have a better chance of winning the lottery."