Little Leaguers get heroes' welcome home
Updated 7:42 pm, Thursday, August 23, 2012
The Fairfield American Little League team got a hero's welcome home Thursday afternoon.
"Welcome home, and thank you for making us so proud out there," Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau told team members.
The squad of 12- and 13-year-olds captivated the town -- baseball fans and non-fans alike -- winning more World Series games than any Connecticut team since Trumbull National won the title in 1989.
"Congratulations guys, that's phenomenal," Tetreau said.
More InformationMore in sports For full coverage of American's last World Series game, See Pages B1 and B2.
Fairfield police met the team's bus as it crossed the state line in Greenwich earlier Thursday and escorted it downtown to the green. After speeches, the boys were treated to hot dogs and pizza.
Tetreau was the master of ceremonies and commended American for both its sportsmanship and baseball prowess.
"You played great baseball," Tetreau said. "But more importantly, you made Fairfield proud. You showed us what's best about our next generation."
The first selectman introduced Fairfield's coaches and 11 players, with Will Lucas and Biagio Paoletta drawing the biggest cheers. Lucas threw the 47th no-hitter in World Series history and Paoletta batted .462 in Williamsport.
American manager Bill Meury then addressed the gathering of about 150 people. He commended his team not only for getting to the World Series, but for three successful summers.
Many of the American players were teammates for three years and claimed state championships as 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, and an East Regional crown as 10-year-olds in 2010.
"I think modesty, in addition to their skill and a little bit of good fortune, is the reason they achieved so much success over the years," Meury said. "They respected the game, their opponents and, most importantly, each other."
Meury also credited the players' families, friends and supporters.
"Thanks for enduring 24 games this year and more than 60 games in three years," Meury told the families. "They owe you big time, and you should never let them forget it."
Lucas, the shortstop who found himself pitching Monday night and threw a gem against Nebraska, fondly reminisced about his experiences in Williamsport.
"All of the players on the other teams were great," he said. "How nice it was playing on ESPN and on the field. It was great."
During the ceremonies on the Sherman Green, three other youth teams were recognized.
Fairfield National's 11-year-old team, which won the state championship this summer, was celebrated. Seven team members were recognized, and coach Paul Vinci briefly addressed the crowd.
Tetreau also recognized the state and New England Regional champion Little League softball team and the District 2 champion Fairfield National 10-year-old team.
Lucas, Paoletta and Ryan Meury, the manager's son, also addressed the crowd.
"I just want to say, on behalf of the team, we want to thank our parents -- especially our moms," Ryan Meury said. "And our dads weren't too bad either."
For pitcher Matt Kubel, the trip to Williamsport was a reminder of how far he'd come. Kubel attended a 2010 rally welcoming home American's first World Series team.
"I remember coming out in 2010, and it was a lot like this," Kubel said. "The town's really supportive. ... This is really amazing."
Ryan Meury also reflected on his team's incredible three-year run.
"It was a great journey," he said. "It was just the best experience of my life."