Fairfield American: just one big happy family
Published 12:00 am, Friday, August 18, 2017
BRISTOL - Forget baseball, this is all about cornhole.
You know the game, where teams of players stand about 20-feet apart and try to throw beanbags into a small hole in a slanted board. It’s a staple at tailgate parties across the country and apparently, it’s a huge part of the bonding process with the Fairfield American Little League players and parents.
Especially the parents.
“Our big thing is cornhole, we all partner up and pull names out of a hat and most of the kids get in on a tournament and it’s just a lot of fun,” Louise Vivona said. “It can get vicious at times. Yes, we’re pretty serious about it.”
“We have trophies and everything,” Robin Righter said. “It’s pretty cut-throat. We’re a competitive bunch, but all in good fun.”
In what has been a magical summer, the mothers and fathers of Fairfield American have molded themselves into a band of brothers and sisters as they travel around the region, watching their boys win game after game, sweeping through the district, sectionals, state and New England region tournaments, now punching their ticket to Williamsport and the 2017 Little League World Series that will start on Thursday with a 3 p.m. game against the Mid-Atlantic champ, New Jersey, at Lamade Stadium. And you can bet that the Fairfield fans will be out in force.
“We call them the ‘Red Tsunami,’ “ Fairfield American manager Mike Randazzo said. “They used to be called the ‘Red Sea’ but as the season and summer went on, it just kept growing. They come in waves to get to our games. You saw what happened, there were thousands of people supporting us.”
It began back in mid-June when the District 2 tournament started and Fairfield American rolled through six pool-play games undefeated. It didn’t long for people to realize that this team could be something special and before you knew it, families were getting together, having pool parties, gathering at local restaurants and of course, playing cornhole.
“We all get together, we try and go out, we try to see each other, we travel together. This is a family since day one,” said Lisa Randazzo, wife to manager Mike Randazzo and mother to third baseman Leo. “We ski together, we cornhole, we’ve been to Vermont, we’ve been to Disney World, we’ve been everywhere. We got to dinner at a couple of local spots in town that we like to meet at. Millie (Pollack) will just call us and say, ‘Who’s available?’ and we’ll go out and see each other. It’s just awesome.”
More often than not, everyone is available to get together.
“Let’s put it this way, my phone is in my hand all day and I’m waiting for the text, I’m waiting for the email,” Millie Pollack said, mother to center fielder Anthony. “If I don’t get something, I go into withdrawl. It’s been a blast and I don’t want it to end. I’m very sad because eventually, it will end but we are having fun. This is a great group and we all respect each other. The boys are fantastic, they respect their coaches, it’s a great organization, everyone’s having a blast. It’s been a great ride.”
The final ride starts tomorrow with Fairfield’s first game in the Little League World Series. It was a journey that started nearly four-plus years ago when many of these boys were playing together on the 8-under all-star team, moving up the ranks to 9U and 10U and 11U before capturing the gold ring this summer.
“Most of them I’ve known since the boys were eight’s, the Randazzo’s live in our neighborhood. They’ve been playing together for a long time,” Bernadette Falletta said, mother of Anthony, one of the five substitutes on the squad. “This has been an A-plus in the fun category, it’s been awesome.”
“My son started in the 8’s, and half the team has been together since then,” Louise Vivona said. “I think there were eight of us on this team that were originally part of the same travel team, so it’s just been great. A great group of people that enjoy being together.”
On any given game night - or off-night -- for that matter, you will likely find a group of parents celebrating a win or enjoying each other’s company over pizza at the Colony Grill or Vinny’s or some other local establishment.
“We get together a couple of times, three times a week, just to have fun with the team,” Kellie Dodder said, mother of substitute Griffin Dodder. “It’s usually the families, team celebrations … some parents have had the kids over for pool parties and group dinners. We’ve gotten to know each other fairly well. You get to know their families, grandparents, other siblings. It’s been a great experience.”
“This has been incredible, it’s been so much fun. We’re like a family,” Cruz Adriana Smith said, mother of substitute Christian Smith. “We all get along very well, so it’s like, a lot of fun. A great experience. Unbelievable. (Christian) played on some travel teams so I knew some of the moms. The whole experience has been awesome, watching the kids having fun and being a little goofy. It’s just a really, really, good group. Sometimes the mom’s get a little goofy too. That’s what it’s all about, having fun, loving this experience. I’m just trying to take it all in and making sure the kids are enjoying it.”
And the kids are enjoying it … but maybe, not so much as the parents.
“It’s been a really fun summer, we’ve been looking forward to this for a long time,” Robin Righter said. “We’ve always had a great time together. This is really, all about the families and bonding and being together. The kids are all having a blast, all ages and they’re all hanging out, having a great time. We miss each other when we’re not hanging out. If we’re not all at the hotel, we’re texting each other or calling and making sure that everyone is coming back, it’s really a lot of fun. We have a great group of families.”
And while the parents have bonded like brothers and sisters, the team itself put all its egos by the back door has bonded for a common goal - winning the Little League World Series.
“They’ve won with 14 (players) … they’ve won with 14. They’ve all done their part, whether it’s a blowout or a close game, they’re in together,” Lisa Randazzo said. “They’re in it forever and they’re very supportive of each other and that’s huge and Mike is thrilled with them. He’s been thrilled with their attitude and their sportsmanship.”