If the contingent from Fairfield could have heard above the celebratory din Saturday at in Bristol when the Fairfield American Little Leaguers clinched a regional title that now sends them to copete in the 66th Little League World Series, they would have heard an eruption of cheers all the way from their proud hometown.
Nowhere were those cheers louder than at Colony Grill in downtown Fairfield, a restaurant owned by four childhood friends who knew what was running through the minds of the victorious Fairfield American teammates.
"We know how exciting and blessed we were to be part of the (Little League) program in Trumbull. There's nothing more exciting than experiencing what they're going through right now as 11- and 12-year-olds," Coniglio said.
"It's been very exciting for us that this team has done so well," said Coniglio, not just referring to this team's berth in the World Series at Williamsport, Pa., but acknowledging that this is their second trip there in three years.
"It's funny hearing my parents' perspective (back in 1989) and then hearing the perspective of the parents of these players. I think they're more nervous than the kids," Coniglio said.
John and Maureen Martin of Fairfield, no relation to Ken Martin, said their son was on the 8-year-old tournament team this year, but Maureen Martin wondered if she could handle a higher level of competition, such as what Fairfield American faced in the regionals, and what's to come in the national competition.
"As a mom, I don't think I could take it at this level, the pressure; and watching the other team leave the field in tears," Maureen Martin said. And yet, she said, "It's so exciting to watch boys that you know from your own town and be so close to Williamsport."
The wait staff and bartenders wore Fairfield American T-shirts emblazoned on the back with the words "Never give up." Around the corner at Archie Moore's there was also a crowd watching the game that pitted the Fairfield American against Bedford New Hampshire.
"We didn't know it was on," said Don Fairbanks of Fairfield, but, said his friend Dan Vanacore of Fairfield, "We're watching it." Archie Moore's waitress Mary Suden cast her gaze in the direction of one of several televisions when she could. "Everyone in Fairfield is watching it," said Suden who's had children and grandchildren play for the state championship representing Milford.
Back at Colony Grill, many more patrons were deliberately focused on the game; and even those who had only come in to enjoy a pizza got caught up in the excitement. Almost everyone in the Post Road eatery cheered and clapped simultaneously for every great play, for Biagio Paoletta's grand slam, for each homerun in the runaway shut-out score that climbed with each inning.
"Convincing. They're really a good team," Coniglio said.
"That's unbelievable," Mike Widmer of Fairfield said of the 14-zip score tallied by the home team. He and his wife Roni and daughter Devenny, 9, had dined elsewhere but showed up in the fifth inning to watch the rest of the game at Colony Grill. "I knew they'd have the game on," he said. The game was being shown on five of the six large-screen TVs.
Widmer said he didn't want to miss the outcome. "It's a big deal for the town. It's Fairfield pride," said Widmer, who went to the final game in Bristol two years ago. "My son Blake played Little League that year but he didn't play on the summer team," he said.
"It's another amazing run. It's the third year in a row we had a team advance to the regional finals. And it'll be the second time in three years we had a team in the World Series. That's quite an accomplishment," Widmer said.
"It's great that we have representation from our town in the Little League World Series for the second time in three years. We've had good teams three years in a row," said Bob Ionescu of Fairfield. "We'll watch them."
The Little League World Series gets under way Thursday. Fairfield American will play its first game Thursday against the Petaluma, Calif., winners of the West region, at 3 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2.