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‘Bull Power’ has helped Hollidaysburg

ASSOCIATED PRESS The Mid-Atlantic Region champion of Hollidaysburg Little League rides in the Grand Slam Parade in downtown Williamsport on Monday.

Shortly after Hollidaysburg defeated Keystone Little League and reached the Pennsylvania state championship, the real fun began.

Carmine Calderone and his Challenger Division teammates provided the joy. Calderone also supplied the “Bull Power,” a slogan which has helped Hollidaysburg make history and reach the Little League World Series for the first time.

Following the Hollidaysburg-Keystone game, both teams stayed around and served as helpers during the Challenger game in Bradford. There, Hollidaysburg was introduced to Calderone who would put his fingers above his head and make a bulls noise after reaching base. Calderone called it Bull Power and a new Hollidaysburg motto was born, with players honoring Calderone by displaying the bull horns every time they deliver an extra-base hit. Calderone and his teammates inspired Hollidaysburg in more ways than one, became friends and have exchanged videos at each tournament along the way to Williamsport.

Now the whole world is learning how dangerous that Bull Power is.

In just its sixth year of existence, Hollidaysburg has become one of the country’s top 20 Little League teams and plays its first Series game tonight at Lamade Stadium against Southwest champion Pearland, Texas. Calderone will be there as the special bond formed that day in Bradford continues gathering strength.

“After that game Carmine said, ‘When you go to Connecticut, remember Bull Power.’ That gave us so much energy going into our next game with Greencastle,” Hollidaysburg manager and league president Jim McGough said. “We saw a lot of Challenger players coming to cheer us on at the state championship and when you see the bull power signs that’s our signal to the kids.’ It’s been amazing. We keep exchanging videos back and forth and they just keep coming.”

The joy that interaction with the Challenger players has created has produced yet another special memory along this remarkable, historic journey. Hollidaysburg is the first team from Blair County to reach the Series and has captured four championships on its way to South Williamsport.

All that is wonderful and will long be remembered. But so will the relationships formed with Calderone and his Challenger teammates. Those experiences might be the most fun of all.

“They have felt like our teammates throughout the whole process. Our players ask every day if we have gotten a new video from them and as soon as we get one, we’re eager to send one back,” McGough said. “It’s a cool connection we were able to make from a special time that us and Keystone got to share together with them.”

The videos are great, but Hollidaysburg also gives their new friends quite a tribute whenever it takes the field. Win or lose, the way they play speaks volumes. Hollidaysburg has taken a few losses this summer, but come back strong each time, fighting back to avenge those defeats against Keystone at states and Delaware at regionals.

In doing so, Hollidaysburg became the Mid-Atlantic’s best Little League team. The road has become a long one and Hollidaysburg had to pay a price for glory, but all that hard work and sacrifice has brought it here. That makes it all worth it.

“It feels amazing,” Chase Link said following Hollidaysburg’s 7-3 regional championship win against previously undefeated Delaware. “A dream for almost every Little League player. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and we’ll do our best to keep having more fun.”

“We’ve been trying to do this for years,” Ty McGough said after throwing four innings of brilliant relief to earn the win that day. “It feels like we’re in a dream right now.”

The players are not the only ones excited about a dream becoming reality. McGough, fellow coaches and players have been bombarded with text messages, phone calls and/or well-wishers. Blair County has never experienced anything like this and Hollidaysburg fever has been sweeping through Central Pennsylvania.

That means Hollidaysburg could have quite a large crowd watching it tonight. Keystone, 30 minutes from here, drew record crowds when it played at the 2011 Series and Red Land, two hours away, did the same when it captured the 2015 U.S. championship. There is no official home team at the Little League World Series, but Hollidaysburg is pretty close to being so.

“It’s absolutely amazing. We’ve been getting messages from people all the time about how they are excited and looking forward to coming to Williamsport and seeing the kids play. There’s a lot of buzz going around the town to see the games live and it’s pretty cool to say we’re kind of the hometown team,” McGough said. “It sounds like a lot of people are anxious to see the kids play and have the experience of seeing a team so close from home play in the Little League World Series.”

What all those fans will see is the product of all the work put in when nobody is watching. Hollidaysburg is talented, but so are so many other teams throughout Pennsylvania. To make this far, one needs to put in countless hours of practice, be tough, remain poised and never back down. Hollidaysburg checks all those boxes.

Following its two one-run losses this summer, Hollidaysburg outscored those opponents by a 19-5 margin in the rematches. It jumped on Delaware early in the Mid-Atlantic final before Ty McGough left the bases loaded with no outs after entering the game in the third inning to help put out the fire. Look back at all the other games and it’s always someone different coming through. This is 11 athletes playing as one to become the only one from Blair County to experience something like this.

“They know it hadn’t been done before and they have been working really hard to become the first. They’ve been playing a lot of baseball,” Jim McGough said. “They take a lot of pride in hard work and preparation. They work on on the physical capacity but also on the mental aspects and it’s great to see it all come to fruition and live the dream of coming to Williamsport.”

One of the best parts of living that dream was meeting Calderone and his friends. Making a run to the Little League World Series is something that bonds a team together forever. A few weeks ago, Hollidaysburg added a few more teammates.

And the joy each group has provided the other means as much as any of these championships won this summer do.

“It shows the heart that they have, being able to interact with the kids and become teammates with the kids,” Jim McGough said. “The smiles are so pure on both sides. Those friendships will last a lifetime.”

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