Over the past week and a half Pennsylvania residents have been glued to their T.V. sets watching the amazing run the Keystone Little League team from Clinton County showcased. In Williamsport, the support proved to be even greater with over 167,000 fans showing up over a five-game stretch.
We're not talking about major league baseball or pro football, we're talking about little league baseball a sport that on most occasions draws only family members when a team is playing at their local field. So did the fans come out in droves just because the team hailed from Lock Haven, PA and was located only 29.5 miles from Williamsport's historic fields? I believe it was no doubt the catalyst for the roaring crowds, but something else brought these people to the games and proximity wasn't the only reason.
I'm sure most who played Little League remember growing up and being in the first game that competitively meant something. A game where if you lost you would shake hands with the other team and stubbornly stomp to your parents car. Now imagine stepping up to the plate in front of 35,000 fans all cheering for you and not getting a hit. Then imagine losing your first game in the country's biggest national tournament and then winning three straight to give your team a chance to advance to the U.S. championship.
The pressure on these kids was overwhelming even for those watching. I found myself stupidly yelling at the T.V., "How did you swing at that pitch? You have to be guessing curve ball there," like I had any idea what I was talking about. I had a friend call me after Thursday's game and tell me that the PA team straight up blew it.
These kids moved so many people with their ability to play the game of baseball that people became such die hard fans they were actually angry when they lost. They constantly showed perseverance throughout the series, winning three straight games in a do or die bracket. I believe it was the Keystone Little Leaguers' will to win that brought all those Pennsylvanians to Williamsport.
Keystone was the first team in the Williamsport area to make it to the World Series since 1969. Fourteen years ago The Railway Park Little League team from Pottsville sent a team to the series also gaining the attention of the PA baseball faithful but it wasn't even close to the hysteria that the Keystone Little Leaguers created.
Another reason for the PA squad's support could be the media. ESPN has become an absolute juggernaut in the sports world and had hall of fame broadcasters and players calling every game. How many little leaguers can say that John Kruk and Oral Hershiser called one of their games?
The Little League World Series itself has become a spectacle in its own right and is very economically friendly considering it doesn't cost anything to sit on the grassy banks behind the outfield a deal that PA fans definitely took advantage of.
When it's all said and done the Keystone players gave the people of PA a reason to come together and cheer for something as pure as Little League baseball. After the champ is crowned after this weekend there will be no congressional hearings dealing with players from the series to see if they were taking steroids to boost their abilities. These kids can flat out play because they can just flat out play. So kids, instead of hitting a walk off home run for your favorite baseball team on XBOX or striking out the side on your Playstation, grab a bat and a ball and try and make yourself a hero. Ask the kids from Lock Haven, PA if it's a feeling they will ever forget.