Blake Quintana originally said playing baseball was his favorite Little League Baseball World Series experience.
After a minute, or so, he changed his answer.
"Signing autographs and taking pictures was the best," Quintana said.
That is a good thing, too, because he and his Midwest champion Kearney, Neb., teammates likely will be signing and posing for quite some time.
The Kearney Little Leaguers reached the big-time this summer and brought their town worldwide exposure. They also made history by becoming the first Nebraska team ever to play at World Series.
And Monday at Lamade Stadium, they became the first Nebraska team to win a Series game, battering European Region champ Ramstein, Germany, 17-1 in four innings. The Midwest champions scored a Series-record 15 second-inning runs and added yet another piece of history to their remarkable summer-long run.
"We kind of had an inkling halfway through regionals that we could do it. We just looked strong and were playing at such a high level, so I started thinking what it might be like. It was way better, and the kids have all said that," Kearney manager Brad Wegner said. "I've probably said this more than they care to hear, 'Are you enjoying this moment, that moment?' They've had a great time."
All but one Kearney player scored a run and/or delivered a hit and Kearney built a 17-0 second-inning lead. The Midwest champions sent 18 batters to the plate that inning and erased memories of two previous losses.
"It was good to get the bats going and show everybody what we can do," Wegner said. "We came to hit."
Wegner's son, Jared, hit a three-run home run and went 3 for 4 with five RBIs, while Matt Masker went 2 for 2 with a RBI. Quintana earned the win, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out four.
"It felt really good," Jared Wegner said. "I hadn't been hitting that well so it felt good to hit that."
All of Kearney has felt good during its run. Players and coaches last were home nearly three weeks ago, but they sense how big this is back home. They have been flooded with emails, texts and media requests since capturing the Midwest Regional championship.
Kearney players leave Thursday to return home since school started last Thursday, but going back to school is a small price to pay for what awaits them. Brad Wegner said the team already has received an invite from the Omaha Stormchasers, the Kansas City Royals Triple-A affiliate, to attend a game and throw out the first pitch.
The Kearney Chamber of Commerce also has something planned and nearly the entire town likely will be there when the team returns, eager to give it a royal welcome back.
"The kids' pictures have been splashed all over," Brad Wegner said. "All of Nebraska has been pulling for us. It's been Little League mania."
"It's been history in the making and it's a big deal," said Ken Masker, Matt's father and a Kearney Little League Board member. "They have been receiving a lot of publicity from all over. Everybody has been gathering at the restaurants and watching them play and it's been special. It's been a dream come true."
In addition to making history, Kearney also has become a trailblazer. It took 66 years for a Nebraska team to reach the Series but this group finally did it. No longer will reaching the Series seem like an impossible dream to Nebraska Little Leaguers.
It is one thing to hope you can achieve something special and another actually to do it. This team has proven it can be done.
"I equate it to Roger Bannister breaking the 4-minute mile. Nobody said it could be done and he did it and it's been broken several times since," said Damon Day, the Nebraska Kearney University baseball coach and a Kearney Little League board member. "We're already hearing from the young kids in the neighborhood that they are planning on getting to the Series. Once one team can do it, it shows them that anything is possible."
Kearney kicked down that Series door this season. It went undefeated until reaching the Series, captured its fourth state championship in five years and pounded six straight Midwest Regional opponents.
And once at the Series, Kearney made sure it made history one last time. Kearney ended its dream season in impressive fashion. One last time, it showed the world how good a team it is.
"It's an amazing accomplishment and what coach Wegner and the players have done, not just for Kearney, but for state of Nebraska, is phenomenal," Day said. "The dedication they have put in and what they achieved shows how good baseball is in the Kearney community and in Nebraska."