In the Suburbs / Fairfield American seeks third Little League World Series Championship
There were tears of joy, hugs, shrieks and high fives this past weekend as Fairfield American Little Leaguers celebrated that special moment that only comes with victory. The team and its manager Mike Randazzo, who always believed they would win, had beaten the South Portland, Maine team, capturing the New England regional title and now they’re heading to Williamsport, Penn. for their third Little League world series competition in 7 years.
The team went to Williamsport in 2010 and 2012. Last year, the team came so close to victory and another trip to Williamsport, but they lost to Rhode Island. Despite the pain of that loss, Fairfield American bounced back this year to get all the way to the top.
When I picked up the paper last Sunday morning and read the great news about Fairfield American, I couldn’t help thinking about a colleague, Chris Gallo, with whom I worked for a short time when he was promoting a book he had written —Unlikely Champions: A Miracle in Williamsport. Gallo’s book, which came out in 2014, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Trumbull Little League and its victory over Taiwan with 40,000 fans chanting “USA-USA-USA”.
Unfortunately, Fairfield American didn’t get to Williamsport in 2014, but from my perspective, Gallo’s book is evergreen when it comes to the essence of Little League and the dream of reaching Williamsport. He captured players’ comments about how the Little League World Series experience changed their lives from 12-year-old players to world champions and followed them as they grew into adults. Several of those adults are successful entrepreneurs in Fairfield and surrounding communities.
Gallo, a native of Fairfield and certified public accountant who now lives in Shelton, modestly claims that he has little talent for playing baseball, but first developed his passion for the game when he attended a World Series game in New York at age 6. The year was 1958. These days, his collections include more than 125,000 baseball cards and 200 autographed baseballs from Hall of Famers.
Gallo said that he hoped the parents of Little Leaguers might read his book and learn the simple lesson of what Little League baseball is all about. He added, “It’s not about winning at all costs. It’s not about the fame that comes from winning an important game with a worldwide audience watching. It is about playing the game and having fun, dreaming, working hard to make dreams come true, learning to trust your teammates and learning to trust the adults who teach them the game.”
Meanwhile, the reality about Williamsport is that Fairfield American’s biggest challenge is ahead as the team faces teams from around the world. In this 71st annual Little League World Series, United States teams in competition are from the Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, New England, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast and Western regions. International teams are from Asia-Pacific, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Europe-Africa, Japan, Latin America and Mexico regions. And Fairfield American shared a bus to Williamsport this past Sunday with Holbrook, New Jersey’s Mid-Atlantic champions.
I also stumbled onto a bunch of little known facts about the Little League World Series in the publication, Mental Floss. Here are just a couple.
In 1938, Carl Stotz, a lumberyard clerk living in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, was playing catch with his nephews one day when he tripped over a lilac bush. His frustration quickly turned to inspiration when he decided to start a local league where kids could play organized baseball on a real baseball field. That summer, he set down the rules for Little League Baseball — including field dimensions that are still used today — and gathered enough kids and equipment for three teams to begin playing.
Nearly 90 countries
From Russia to Australia, Burkina Faso to Papua New Guinea, kids from six different continents currently play Little League Baseball. … No team from Europe, Africa, or the Middle East has ever made it to the World Series final.
In 1959, Dr. Creighton J. Hale, Little League’s director of research, developed the first batting helmet with protective ear coverings. It was a design that Little League quickly implemented, and that Major League Baseball eventually adopted for its players. Little League was also the testing grounds for the aluminum bat, the remote-controlled scoreboard, and the first ever “ump cam,” worn by umpire Frank Rizzo during the 1985 Little League World Series final.
I’ll be hoping to hear about that same chant of USA USA USA from the crowd if Fairfield American walks away with its own Triple Crown in Williamsport. I’m very optimistic.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.