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Keeping Up with West End’s Boys of Summer

Wow! What a Summer of baseball. Michelle and I were blessed to have both boys reach the Babe Ruth World Series in the same year. And that rumor Todd Bartley of ESPN Radio started – that Jimmy and Hunter get their ability from their Mother – it’s true.

When I last left you (Welcome to Williamsport from Klamath Falls – 8/19 edition) our local West End boys managed by Levon Whitmyer were about to play Southwest Region Champion, Mobile, Alabama.

The two-time defending champs from Alabama ended the dream of a Senior World Series Title for our local boys. However, the memories and friendships of this fantastic journey will last a lifetime. The West Enders finished third with a 4-2 record. Their other loss was to Ephrata, Washington in pool play. The Pacific Northwest Champs went on to win the Title.

One of the things that makes playing for Jim and Bonnie Winder at West End so special is that players from up and down the West Branch Valley make up the All-Star rosters. The same players compete against each other throughout their Little League and high school careers, come together as one team to represent our Area.
What a remarkable summer these boys shared.

Tip of the cap to Cody Nelson, Carter Alexander, Anthony Caruso, Riley Thomas and Billy Rummings. All played for Coach Shawn Finn at South Williamsport.

Damone Buxton, Noah Esposito, Bradley Walters and Jesse Cornell who wore the Cherry and White of the Millionaires.

Quintin Kuntz and Devon Singer from across the Creek, played for Manager Travis Wurster at Montoursville.

Justin Lambert represents Hughesville and Coach Casey Waller.

Rylan Whitmyer from Mansfield/North Penn and my son Jimmy who roamed the outfield for Lancer skipper Jeremy Eck.

Levon was assisted by Drae Lewis, Kurt Caruso. Ryan Buckner also helped out at practice and outfitting the boys with Mid Atlantic uniforms and hats.

Thank you to these good men for their time, effort and dedication. You and your team represented our area with class on and off the field.

While I was in Oregon, Michelle was back at home with Hunter as manager George Lepley prepared his team for the 13-15 Babe Ruth World Series in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.

I flew one way out to Sacramento, upon the completion of action at Kiger Stadium in Klamath my plan was to head for Tennessee and watch George’s troops. Fortunately for me rain set in on the Nashville area and West End’s first two games were moved back. More on my travel coming up.

Coach George Lepley has managed several teams to World Series appearances. He may be the only manager to guide a 13, 14, 15 and 16-18 year old teams to a World Series. What made this year especially sweet was this group had won three consecutive State Titles but came up short at the Mid Atlantic Regional Tournament the past two years. This year they made it through to the World Series.

Tip of the cap to Caleb Joy, Tanner Esposito, Isaac Snyder, Ryan Jolin, Tyler Mankey, Brandon Loner, Cody Shimp, Cam Pardoe and last but not least Ethen Stryker. It was Ethen’s ninth inning walk off grand slam in the Mid Atlantic Final that put the team in the World Series. All played for Williamsport this past high school season.

Sammy Newton, Spike Holz, Chase McNulty and Hunter played for Coach Eck in the Township.

Owen Kiess and Nolan Ott, Montoursville and Manager Travis Wurster.

George’s staff was long time baseball guy Dave Cipriani, Tori Shimp who handled the pitchers and Sammy Esposito who coached first base. Rich Holz helped out with throwing batting practice

Again, all good men that dedicated their Summer to a common goal. Thank you and great job representing West End, Pennsylvania and the Mid Atlantic Region!

One thing George has proven over the years, and Levon was part of this year, is what can be accomplished in the name of team when Area talent come together as one. It is not an easy task getting 15 talented ballplayers forged together into one great team. Again, tip of the cap, great job done by all!

The 15-year-old team was on the verge of defeating West Chester, California in the Semi Final, but it wasn’t meant to be, a tough, hard-fought 6–5 loss in extra innings ended their season.

The 15 year West End bunch also finished 4-2 and in third place. The California boys claimed the title the next day defeating the host team from Lawrenceburg.

The people of Lawrenceburg provided great southern hospitality as host families to our boys.

The Babe Ruth organization places World Series participants with local families for the week. It is a great experience for the players and those who adopt them during the World Series.

Hunter and his cousin Tanner Esposito were adopted by Billy III and Lindsay Helton. I’ll get back to that cousin part a little later. They got to stay at a Tennessee farmhouse complete with a pond, chickens, a few cattle, a couple of good dogs, of course a John Deere tractor and most importantly, twins Billy IV and Brooklyn and baby Knox.

Hunter and Tanner enjoyed gigging and cooking frogs, catching chickens and southern farm life. I must add Brooklyn was the best chicken catcher, she caught more than Hunter and Tanner combined.

A special heartfelt thank you to Billy and Lindsay for taking in two teenage boys while raising three young ones. They all quickly became one big family. Hunt and Tanner becoming the older brothers.

Now back to that cousin thing. Mr. Sam Esposito and Ms. Theresa Kaiser are brother and sister. Big Sam is also Coach Sammy’s Dad and Tanner’s Grandfather. Teresa is Hunter’s Grandmother, my Mother-in-Law. One other note, there was a Webb in centerfield and Esposito at shortstop on both teams. Jimmy and Noah played the same spots for the older team.

Now for the answers so many have asked me about. How much Country did you cover? How were you able to see both World Series?

Mother Nature played a key factor in delaying the first games in Tennessee and the events were scheduled a couple days apart. Here is the recap if you’re wondering.
It began with a trip to Newark airport (179 miles), thank you Ron Poorman for the conversation and the ride. Flight – Newark to Denver (1,621 miles), flight – Denver to Sacramento (1,430 miles), bus trip – Sacramento to Klamath Falls (299 miles), I traveled this first leg with the team, total 3,529 miles.

After the last game in Klamath Falls, bus trip with the team back to Sacramento (299 miles), then fly the redeye by myself Sacramento to Dallas (1,430 miles), fly – Dallas to Nashville (618 miles). Thank you Laura Esposito for picking me up at Nashville airport and covering the last (83 miles) to Lawrenceburg. Second leg total, 2,430 miles.

I was able to see all but one West End game at Lawrenceburg. When the boys lost to California longtime friend Rick Stryker, Ethen’s Father, offered Michelle and I a ride home. Did I mention I had to get Jimmy to Wake Forest to begin college?

Rick and I drove overnight Nashville to Williamsport (849 miles). After a couple hours of sleep, Michelle, Jimmy and I hit the road for Winston-Salem, North Carolina (478 miles) a quick stop at a Hillsville, Virginia hotel for a nap, shower and shave, Jimmy on campus at 11:30 a.m., a half hour early. Thanks Rick, could not have done it without you!

Add Michelle and I’s return trip to home (478 miles), last leg 1,805 miles.

For those keeping score at home: 7,764 miles, 26 states, two World Series, one first trip to college and as the commercial goes, priceless!

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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