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Much More Than a Field of Dreams

The Little League World Series is a celebration of all that is right on God’s green earth. What a welcoming act the Grand Slam Parade has become. I am amazed every year how the folks of the West Branch Valley wrap their arms around the teams during the event. It is a huge hug of welcome, congratulations on a great summer of baseball, and the ultimate meet and greet for Little League fans.

I wish I could bottle that feeling of goodwill that occurs when folks from around the world get together on the streets of Williamsport. That, along with a tape of the Grand Slam festivities, may provide the perfect solution for conflict resolution. At least it would be worth a shot.

I would probably first try it out on the elected in Washington and work my way out. Think of all you watch on the evening news and the positive effect this could have. I would probably, however, need some extra bottles and tapes for the national news media.

This special formula of conflict resolution could not only be used across our Nation but around the globe. There is absolutely no prejudice of any sort present in the formula. It is just a perfect example of people coming together from every walk of life in celebration of a common interest. It is proof that we are all alike and can live in harmony when no agendas or judgments are being spewed.

If you’ve never been to a Grand Slam Parade, it is a must-see in person. There is just a special atmosphere and feel about the event; my favorite part is watching the team floats travel the parade route as all in attendance cheers them on.

It was great seeing the “Big Unit,” Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, waving to the crowd as he served as Grand Marshal of the parade. It’s been a pretty good year for former Seattle Mariners, as teammate Edgar Martinez recently joined him in bronze at Cooperstown. Both played Little League Baseball growing up. Edgar for Dorado Little League in Puerto Rico.

Being a Little League graduate was the common theme for the Class of 2019 inducted into our National Baseball Hall of Fame. Last week we talked about Mike Mussina of the Orioles/Yankees who played right here at home for Montoursville Little League. For those of you that may not know, Mike has also served as a member of the Little League board of directors for several years.

Harold Baines played for five Major League clubs, but to most is remembered for wearing the number 3 for the Chicago White Sox. Harold began his baseball career playing for the Home Run Baker Little League in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Lee Smith played 18 years in the Majors for eight different teams. I can still hear the voice of Harry Caray finishing up the Cubs broadcast, as Smith would close out the games. He grew up and played his Little League baseball in Castor, Louisiana.

Former Philly and Blue Jay pitcher Roy Halladay was a graduate of the Cherry Creek Little League in Aurora, Colorado. Who can forget “Doc’s” first post-season start as he threw a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds? The beloved Phillie left us way too soon. What a touching moment as his wife spoke in his honor at Cooperstown.

And last, but definitely not least, New York Yankee Mariano Rivera. It makes me feel old talking about all these players; it seems like only yesterday I was watching “The Sandman” finish off games for the Pinstripers. Mariano played his Little League Baseball for Barrio Colon Little League in La Chorrera, Panama.

What a great year it was as the Susquehanna River ran north, connecting Williamsport – “The Home of Little League Baseball” with baseball immortality and Cooperstown, New York. I can’t wait to see what former Little Leaguers get voted in next year.

Here is my starting lineup of Little Leaguers that can be found at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Leading off playing center field — Robin Yount. Batting second, and playing second base — Roberto Alomar. Hitting third, and playing third base — George Brett. Batting cleanup DH — Mike Schmidt. Playing right field, and batting fifth — Carl Yastrzemski. Hitting in the six-hole, and playing first base — Wade Boggs. Batting seventh, playing shortstop — the “Iron Man” Cal Ripken. Hitting on the 8th line, and catching — Mike Piazza. And batting ninth playing left field — Harold Baines.

Starting right-handed pitcher — Nolan Ryan. Starting Southpaw pitcher — Randy Johnson. Middle reliever — Mike Mussina. Closer — Mariano Rivera. Manager Joe Torre, Second-in-Command Bobby Cox.

Have some fun and select your own starting lineup! Other Little Leaguers/Hall of Famers in the dugout — Jeff Bagwell, Gary Carter, Chipper Jones, Ivan Rodriguez, and Edgar Martinez.

In the bullpen — Steve Carlton, Rollie Fingers, Tom Glavine, Trevor Hoffman, Greg Maddux, Jim Palmer, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, in Roy Halladay.

A special tip of my Webb Weekly cap to Robert Guthrie, Little League Baseball’s head ground and turf keeper. Along with his army of volunteers beginning with coordinator Jeff Fowler they’ve done a fantastic job battling Mother Nature. Jeff and his ground crew are organized through Keystone Turf Management. What a great job they have done keeping the fields playable and looking great!

I hope everyone enjoys the rest of the Little League World Series as we head towards Championship weekend. Please, let’s all be careful out there, and safe travels home.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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