Although it has been more than four months since the world converged on South Williamsport during the 2013 Little League World Series, one local fan's rooting interest in the youth baseball tournament last summer not only gave his help on a school project but made a dream come true.
One Montoursville student recently had the opportunity to connect with one of his Little League World Series heroes for a school project.
As fans packed Lamade and Volunteer stadiums throughout August to watch the West Region Champions out of Chula Vista, Calif. - which would go on to represent the country in the World Series Championship Game against Japan - Matthew Conklin, a third-grade student in Michelle Fortin's Lyter Elementary class, was "absolutely crazy" about the team's long-haired leadoff hitter, Micah Pietila-Wiggs.
Shown, above left, is Matthew Conklin holding his Flat Stanley, a school project that required him to decorate the main character from a book and send him to someone who would take him on an adventure. Above right is Micah Pietila-Wiggs, second from right, along with his teammates from the West Region Little League team with Flat Stanley.
As his mother, Kristine Conklin, explained, Matthew's fandom for the team and Pietila-Wiggs didn't end when the teams left the region to return home. Matthew still watches recordings of the games and said he even created Pietila-Wiggs in his Nintendo Wii baseball game.
So as Kristine Conklin explained, when a school project required Matthew to decorate the title character from Jeff Brown's book, "Flat Stanley," it was a "no brainer" that Matthew would design his after Pietila-Wiggs. The character then would be sent to a friend or family member that would take Flat Stanley on adventures that the student then would write about.
With a construction paper baseball bat, long yellow yarn as hair and a gold No. 7 on his jersey, Matthew thought his Flat Stanley character was being sent to family friends in Connecticut. But through the help of their local league, Kristine secretly arranged to have the project sent to Pietila-Wiggs in California.
Kristine said Pietila-Wiggs' mother, Ronne, an assistant high school principal herself, was very welcoming of the project.
"She said, 'We're flattered. We're thrilled and we would love do your Stanley project,' " Kristine said.
During his time in California, Flat Stanley attended various school events with Pietila-Wiggs and activities with the rest of the West region champions.
When Matthew received his Flat Stanley back after his adventures with Pietila-Wiggs, Kristine said he was "stunned." Matthew said he was excited by the package from his favorite player. But Matthew didn't only receive Stanley and a few photos in the package. The package also included various autographs from the team and other memorabilia.
To show his appreciation, Matthew sent a package to Pietila-Wiggs with a second Flat Stanley for him to keep and gifts for the entire team. Kristine still emails Ronne Pietila-Wiggs about the experience. She believes that the project has taught Matthew so much more than the original intent of it.
The experience with Pietila-Wiggs has taught Matthew about kindness and giving to others, Kristine said. Matthew said he was excited about the contact with Pietila-Wiggs and hopes to one day meet him and play a friendly game of baseball.
"I just feel like it's Little League at it's finest," Kristine said.