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Montoursville Little Leaguers visit White House, meet President Trump

ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump talks with former New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera as he greets youth baseball players on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday in Washington. Members of Montoursville Little League are shown behind Trump and Rivera.

Montoursville Little League president Scott Metzger was sitting at his desk around 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon when he suddenly received a phone call from Little League CEO and president Steve Keener. He had no idea at first what Keener would be calling him about.

That’s when Metzger was informed that the White House was looking for a group of Little Leaguers to come down and play catch on the South Lawn and meet both President Donald Trump and Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera.

After saying they’d be more than happy to go, that’s when Metzger found himself exchanging numerous emails and phone calls with the White House to let them know who would be going so the White House could run background checks.

Within 24 hours, 13 members of Montoursville Little League’s major baseball division and their coaches and Metzger were en route to the nation’s capital to have a game of catch on the White House lawn.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players and coaches.

ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump walks with former New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera as he greets youth baseball players on the South Lawn of the White House on Thursday in Washington. Shown are players from Montoursville Little League’s Metzger Apartments team.

“It was like being at Disney World. That’s how it was referred to,” Metzger said. “Everybody was so nice and so pleasant.”

The group of players were made up of representatives from four teams.

As soon as the team and players got to the White House, they needed to have COVID-19 tests done. While they were waiting approximately an hour to get the results of the tests, the players, coaches and Metzger were waiting in the Situation Room, a place very few people outside the White House get to be.

On the way to the White House, the team was escorted by the Secret Service. It was during then that one of the 9-year-old players quickly started running backwards to grab a leaf off a tree to have a souvenir from the actual lawn of the White House. Metzger explained to the Secret Service nearby that it was similar to how teams at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport save dirt from the infield at Lamade Stadium to take home with them.

“He’s taking a souvenir from the grounds and the Secret Service agent said ‘I get it, it’s a special place. I totally get it,'” Metzger said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Montoursville Little Leaguer Josh Meacham hands President Donald Trump and Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera a pair of baseball gloves to have a game of catch on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

Metzger also remarked how one of the Montoursville Little Leaguers he described as the class clown was doing a Trump impersonation to the staff to make them laugh.

Once Trump and Rivera came outside to the South Lawn, the Secret Service asked which player wanted to hand both of them a glove. Josh Meacham quickly yelled that he wanted to.

“He was pretty excited to say the least,” Metzger said.

The 13 Montoursville Little League players were the only ones participating in the event. They were joined by two other players that were children from a worker with Vice President Mike Pence’s staff.

The players played catch with one another on the lawn as Trump threw and caught with Rivera.

PHOTO PROVIDED Montoursville Little Leaguer Shea Ulmer stands between two uniformed members of the military in front of the White House during Thursday’s visit to play catch on the South Lawn and meet President Donald Trump and Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera.

“He has a good arm. He was playing catch with Mariano and caught everything he threw at him,” Metzger said.

They played catch on the front lawn for half an hour. Afterwards, Trump walked around and talked to all of the players, wanting to know what positions they play and more before getting their pictures taken together. Rivera also talked to players and showed the Montoursville Little Leaguers how to throw a cutter.

“Trump talked about how great the game of baseball is and how Mariano is the greatest reliever,” Metzger said.

Once Trump and Mariano found out where the players were from, Metzger noted how Hall of Famer Mike Mussina is involved in the league and they coach with him. That’s when Mariano had a smile creep across his face and told Metzger and the league to “say hi to Moose for me.”

Trump also noted to the players and coaches that Mussina “was a great pitcher” and told the players about how Montoursville was a beautiful area. Trump visited the area last summer to give a rally speech. The president also thanked the league for coming to the South Lawn for a game of catch.

Trump and Rivera had the event to mark the start of the Major League Baseball season, which had its Opening Day Thursday night with two games, one of which was in Washington.

The Montoursville Little Leaguers, coaches and Metzger all received special presidential masks that feature the presidential seal on them, in addition to the players all receiving special pins given to them from the Secret Service as they were about to leave.

It was a remarkable opportunity and unbelievable experience for the players, coaches and Metzger. On the ride home, Metzger quickly summed it up to the players about how unique of a moment they just had.

“When we were leaving I said think about this, there are almost 3 million Little Leaguers in the world. You are one of 13 kids that got to play catch on the South Lawn of the White House with the president and a Major League Hall of Famer. How awesome is that?” Metzger said. “One of the kids said this is the greatest day of his life.”

The moment may not have fully sunk in for the 13 players yet, but for Metzger, he was in awe stepping through the halls of the White House, thinking of all the presidents who once walked there. He was also honored his league was asked to participate.

“Of all of the coaches and volunteers in the world to give their time and energy and heart and soul into this program, for me to receive a call and say ‘can you help us?’ It was an honor,” Metzger said. “I am very humbled to have that opportunity. It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s surreal (Thursday) being there and looking at White House and the history and presidents to walk those hallways. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, all the history that’s there.

“To think that our kids from this little town are there at the White House, interacting with a Hall of Fame major leaguer and President of the United States? What a unique, humbling experience. To be able to have a part of that, it was a blessing.”

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