Excitement over Fairfield Am-amazin's LL World Series debut sweeps town
A contagious condition is sweeping through Fairfield.
On the eve of the first-ever appearance by a Fairfield team in the Little League World Series, pride in the hometown favorites is evident all around town.
"Little League fever has caught everybody," said Steven Gaynes, spokesman for the Fairfield Museum and History Center, referring to the Fairfield American Little League team, which last Saturday won the New England regional title and advances to the first game in the round-robin World Series on Friday afternoon in Williamsport, Pa.
The first team in Fairfield's history to reach this pinnacle of youth baseball excellence, Fairfield American hopes to be the fifth Connecticut team to bring the international championship home to the state. Stamford, Norwalk, Windsor Locks and Trumbull have all won Little League World Series titles -- the most recent being Trumbull in 1989 -- according to Adrienne E. Saint-Pierre, curator of "It's a Hit: A Hometown View of Our National Pastime," an exhibit on Connecticut baseball history at the Fairfield Museum and History Center. "Isn't it fortuitous that Fairfield's Little League got to the World Series? History is in the making," Saint-Pierre said Wednesday.
Fairfield American's dream-turned-reality is now the talk of the town.
Residents have yet to literally paint the town red -- the team color of Fairfield American -- but they are talking a blue streak about the 11- and 12-year-olds' success so far.
"That's all anyone talks about. We're all very excited," said Molly O'Connor, 16, as she had lunch outside the Firehouse Deli downtown Wednesday with two friends, one of whom is Sarah Ryan, 16, the sister of Fairfield American player Tom Ryan, 13.
The sense of hometown pride extends to newcomers, out-of-towners and even to those employed by Major League Baseball.
"I've gotten swept up in the enthusiasm for these boys who have achieved such success representing our town. The Little League World Series shows the pure joy of baseball played by kids at an age -- 11, 12, 13 -- when many of us first fell in love with the game, during our own youth," said Brian O'Gara, a Fairfield resident and the senior director of special events for Major League baseball. His responsibilities for pro ball include ball park events and the pre-game ceremonies for the All Star games and World Series.
O'Gara has attended the Little League World Series with his children for the last five years and said it will be a special experience for the players and fans. "To me, that Little League field at Williamsport is one of the truly enchanting and unique venues in American sports, like Churchill Downs, Notre Dame Stadium, Fenway Park. It's a picturesque location, almost a Normal Rockwell kind of feeling," he said.
O'Gara explains the abundant enthusiasm, even among those who don't know the players or coaches, by saying it's not six degrees of separation. It's probably two or three degrees."
John Mutuski doesn't even know his way around town yet, but he is caught up in the hoopla. "I just moved two days ago to this town and I know someone on the team, relief pitcher Ed Magi Jr. He's the son of my realtor. It gives me a great sense of pride already. It's ironic and cool at the same time. I already have a very strong rooting interest in the town and I'll be watching it on TV," Mutuski said.
And so will most of the town in the privacy of their own homes, as well as bars and restaurants, and other public venues.
The Pequot Library has arranged for a high-definition projector for the HD feed from ESPN and invites the public to watch Friday's game at the library auditorium starting with the opening ceremonies at 11 a.m. and Fairfield American's game against the team from Washington at 1 p.m.
"We will provide free peanuts and Cracker-Jacks and lemonade for everyone who comes," said Pequot Library Executive Director Daniel Snydacker. "If they win, we will be back Sunday at 8 p.m. In the unlikely case they lose, we will show the consolation round beginning Saturday at 8 p.m.," he said.
Those who prefer the real thing can take one of two buses that will leave Friday morning for Williamsport from a location to be announced, and return home that night. Steve Schwartz, president of Fairfield American Little League, said the bus ride is $20 per person and more information is available by emailing John Lucas at email@example.com or by visiting the league website at www.fairfieldamericanll.org. Bus seating is limited to 100 people total, and those seats may go fast.
"Everybody is just so fired up. People I haven't spoken to in 30 years are calling. It's an amazing ride for these boys," said Ed Magi, Sr., the father of relief pitcher Ed Magi Jr.
Leigh Doyle, of Topsfield, Mass., just north of Boston, was in town with her family Wednesday looking at local universities with her daughter, and vowed she would cheer for the Fairfield team. "I wish them all the best," she said.
First Selectman Kenneth Flatto, Parks and Recreation Director Gerry Lombardo and Police Chief Gary MacNamara plan to go to the game. "I'm going to be wearing my red hat, waving the colors and cheering them on. I'll lose my voice by the end of the game. I'm an exuberant fan," Flatto said.