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Sock looks back on run 20 years later in major baseball

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final part in a five-part series looking back at the 2000 Loyalsock Little League major baseball team, the first team in the league’s history to reach the state tournament once regionals were created in 1957. This summer marks the 20-year anniversary.

You may have expected to see kids crying and parents bummed out that the magical summer run came to an end after just two games at the state tournament. But that wasn’t the case. If you looked at everyone in the DuBois hotel, you wouldn’t have known they just lost a heartbreaker earlier in the day to Franklin, 4-3, to get eliminated from the state tournament.

At the hotel, the parents and coaches were in the lobby having some drinks together and just reminiscing about the great summer they just experienced. Right down the hall, players were crammed into teammate Brett Thaler’s hotel room having NFL 2K tournaments on the Sega Dreamcast video game console a player brought with him.

You wouldn’t have had any idea the team just suffered two devastating losses in Little League. Even today, 20 years later, that’s still how the players and coaches look back on that summer. It isn’t memories full of being disappointed, but rather just happy they were able to accomplish what they did.

Loyalsock assistant coach Kirk Coates has taken his daughter down to show her the rock that stands at Bruce Henry Park that commemorates that 2000 team. Coates’ son, Shamaar, tells his three sons what his team was able to accomplish, hoping that they can go and forge a similiar legacy.

Even Pat Carey was quick to admit that anytime he happens to be at Bruce Henry Park and sees that rock, the memories come flooding back about as fast as one of his fastballs that summer.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that we were the first Loyalsock team to make it to states. We had a lot of support behind us,” Shamaar Coates said.

“It was a great accomplishment and I’m glad to be a part of it. Whenever we see one another from the team, we are always able to go back and reflect about that season even today, which is really cool,” catcher Colby Stopper said.

Sitting down at Bruce Henry Park not too far from the major baseball field’s concession stand is a large rock that has the names engraved of all 12 players from the 2000 Loyalsock Little League team, in addition to all three coaches. The rock’s seen better days — the bottom portion has darkened due to repeated flood waters from the nearby creek that runs along Miller’s Avenue — but it’s a lasting reminder for the team and community for what Loyalsock was able to do by getting to the state tournament for the first time in its league history as sectional champs.

That summer was the first time Loyalsock reached the state tournament, and Loyalsock was just the sixth county league at the time to get to that level in major baseball play since sectional tournaments began in 1951. They joined Montoursville (1985, 1987), Newberry (1951, 1969, 1973, 1978, 1990, 1993), Brandon (1998), Williamsport Memorial (1962) and South Williamsport (1992).

“The camaraderie our team had was something special and everyone got along so well. From the first practice to our last game, everyone worked together for one goal,” Loyalsock second baseman Eric Gaetano said. “Looking back 20 years ago at that team and how we all jelled and performed in our individual roles, it makes sense that we accomplished what we did.”

That camaraderie is what sticks out as well for outfielder Kyle Doebler.

“Twelve is a very formative age and Little League is a big deal around here, so having a great team and advancing through a couple layers of tournaments was particularly exciting for us,” Doebler said. “It’s something that can create life-long bonds.”

The league had a great amount of community support that summer, and it’s something all of the coaches and players remember.

Loyalsock played the first game at the state tournament and had photographs of the game posted online, a first at the time, utilizing the Internet for coverage.

The team also had its game score announced at Bowman Field during a Crosscutters game that was going on to inform people at the game who were curious how Loyalsock was doing.

“There is a sense of pride knowing that we were the first team to make it to the state tournament. I think that team paved the way for the rich tradition Loyalsock has now and that’s something no one can take away from us,” Nate Hill said.

When Loyalsock was playing its first game at the state tournament in DuBois, manager Larry Stopper looked out along the fence and saw tons of Loyalsock fans all over. And among them was the Datres family. Funny enough, just eight years later it was Kyle Datres — who was just a 4-year-old kid at that game in DuBois standing near the fence — who was part of the 2008 Loyalsock Little League team which got to the state tournament.

To date, they’re the only two Loyalsock Little League major baseball teams to get past sectionals.

“When you have the confidence that you can do it, it makes such a difference in other teams coming up through and what you can continue in the future,” Stopper said.

“It’s a lifelong memory for the kids, obviously, and it’s also big time memories for the parents too. It’s a great time for any parent to be involved with their kids,” assistant Greg Davis said.

Sitting in a box at Stopper’s house are countless photos from that summer. From the players having fun to shots of some of the parents in the stands. From the district final at Lamade Stadium to the tournament in DuBois. Stopper could talk about those memories for awhile as he glances through the various photographs.

He has the game ball from the district final, sectional final and state tournament, in addition to one signed by the entire team.

They’re all great memories for Stopper and they’re shared by the entire team. It may have been a summer 20 years ago, but for everyone involved with that team, it feels like it just happened last month.

“I am thrilled to say that I was part of a first for Loyalsock Little League,” Loyalsock third baseman Mike Drawbaugh said. “I hope that soon there is a team that goes even farther and they can be proud to extend the legacy of Loyalsock Little League.”

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