Reaching the Little League Baseball World Series was a bonus.
Make no mistake, Southwest champ San Antonio, Texas, manager Jack Wideman was ecstatic about his team reaching the Little League World Series, but what meant the most to him was simply watching his players grow and mature.
Winning games was nice. Learning lessons that could help these players for years to come was the real dream come true.
"With kids it's not just about sports," Wideman said. "It's about life, too, and giving back. We're blessed to be here."
Texas played its final Series game Thursday, losing to California and finishing third in the country. It was the second time in four years the McAllister Park American League all-stars finished among the country's top three.
But while the games ended Thursday, the learning did not. Early the next morning, Wideman and his team presented the Uganda team with about 100 gloves, baseball and cleats.
And seeing how happy that presentation made the Uganda team probably will mean much more than a world championship ever could as the years go by.
"That's part of the learning we're doing with the kids," Wideman said. "That's some of the charity work we've been trying to do."
Texas had a remarkable all-star season, but while the wins grew bigger, the egos never did. It was a team well-schooled in baseball fundamentals and situations. It also was well-schooled on being model people on and off the field.
"I have been with this group for three all-star seasons now and I have noticed a maturity and a change," Texas coach Mike Morrow said. "They really are a great bunch of kids."
They are great players, too.
Texas lost just once on its way to South Williamsport, then won its first two Series games while coming within three outs of reaching the U.S. championship. The Southwest champions overcame three four-run deficits during their state tournament and scored two fifth-inning runs against Tennessee Wednesday to move within three outs of the national championship.
Texas basically had 13 starters and all 13 made big impacts. They all could hit and all shined defensively. Texas made just one error in four Series games and turned eight double plays in regionals and at the Series.
The players who helped McAllister Park reach the 2009 national championship now are excelling in high school and/or travel baseball. Expect more of the same from this group in the coming years. And give McAllister Park American Little League an assist there.
"We saw this process of getting here, win or lose, making Tanner a better player because he was working so much," said Neil Scarborough who's son Tanner played on the 2009 team and whose son Jack is on this team. "He came out of it a better player and I think Jack will, too."
All those on this team likely will be better people. The wins and losses will fade, but the memories and lessons learned will last forever.
"It's emotional because this is probably my last coaching job," Wideman said. "You just let the boys know that there were 15,000 fans here (Thursday) and 14,000 were cheering for you and them. It's special here."
San Antonio thinks its team is pretty special, too.