Montoursville also welcomes the world

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” Yankee catcher Yogi Berra used to say.

And just because a team has been eliminated at the LLWS doesn’t mean those boys of such a very special summer are finished playing ball.

Scheduled crossover games, where an American team plays an international team, continue the competition and sportsmanship that define the LLWS. And, in a solid nod to the host community, the games are played off-site local Little League fields.

Northwest representative Walla Walla Valley Little League met the Caribbean sluggers from Santiago, Dominican Republic at Lyter Field in Montoursville yesterday morning at 10:00. Walla Walla came out on top in a 10-4 win where a crowd of 200-plus fans cheered for both teams.

The boys arrived in style on a River Valley Transit bus, enjoying a police escort complete with ambulance, fire truck, sirens and a second police car bringing up the rear of the procession.

Montoursville Little Leaguer Tyler Leutze stopped just long enough to express his hope that he and his friend, Cole Johnson, also a Montoursville Little Leaguer, would see the teams “crush some home runs.” The two then bolted to the bus to greet the teams as they disembarked.

Tony Ritoli, in charge of field maintenance all season, related the crew put in long hours the night before and finished up in the morning to produce an impeccable site for the crossover game. Accompanied by sons Niko and Antonio, Ritoli noted the Caribbean team has been Antonio’s favorite “since he was old enough to understand baseball.”

Kate Stutzman, responsible for the concession stand, wasn’t sure how many spectators would show up for the game, but she was ready for them. The mid-morning start time demanded a revised menu and Stutzman stepped up to the breakfast plate to offer pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick and egg sandwiches. The most popular purchase in the cool of the morning was coffee, she noted.

Scott Metzger, long-time president of Montoursville Little League, enthused over the opportunity to share the facilities at Lyter Field with both teams.

“We are blessed to have great fields,” he said of his league, crediting “the board of directors and great volunteers who have continuously provided maintenance.” Coincidentally, Metzger served as the team host/uncle for the Caribbean team at the Series. He especially enjoyed “hosting” the boys he got to know so well on his home field. “It’s a great honor to have them here,” he emphasized.

Metzger noted the generosity of the Conklin family, owners and operators of C + I Boiler Repair in Montoursville, who sponsored a post-game picnic for both teams, where the boys enjoyed each other’s company over a meal of fried chicken, pasta salad, and other all-American picnic foods catered by Rupert’s Specialty Meats.

“Look around and see how neat this is,” Jeff Conklin said, eyes sweeping the field from his seat in the outfield. “It was an honor to do it for the kids and an honor for the world to come to Montoursville.”