I was in Virginia last weekend, sitting in a hotel named after a Confederate general and watching, of all things, kids from Bend, Oregon, play baseball. As you should know by now, Bend's all-star Little League team (from the South division) went all the way to the championship of the Northwest regional championship. They were one game away from heading to the Little League World Series.
But they lost 7-1 to a squad of kids from a town in Montana most of these young Bendites had never heard of, putting an end to a summer these young guys won't forget. I'm not trying to say that playing on national television is the best thing that will ever happen to these kids because no one peaks at 12 years old. OK, maybe Mozart and Gary Coleman, but for the most part, there will be great things ahead. Nevertheless, it might have felt like that to some of these players. When I was 12 and played Little League All-Stars, I did, in fact, feel like it was the most important thing in the world. At the time, it probably was.
But you know what? Who knows, maybe we'll see some of these youngsters again on national television. More likely, though, there will come a time when one of these guys - grown, graduated and baseball career far behind him - will be sitting in a bar and the Little League World Series will be playing on ESPN. He'll be able to say that he played on ESPN (twice) when he was a kid and whatever stranger he happens to be sharing this with will be impressed because that guy will almost certainly have never been on national television, unless he was one of those jackwagons who jumps up and down behind the College Game Day set.
That loss on Saturday probably still stings a bit for the team, its coaches and the parents - many of whom sacrificed plenty to not just travel down to Southern California for the regionals, but to make it to the district and state games earlier in the summer - but any disappointment that remains will melt into pride soon enough. Hell, I know I'm proud. It was nice to boast about something coming out of Bend other than beer, powdery snow and foreclosure rates. And I did plenty of boasting out there in Virginia. Sure, I got a few weird looks because some people think a heavily bearded 28 year old shouldn't be so obsessed with youth sports, but I couldn't help it.
So, I guess what I'm saying to these youngsters and everyone else involved with this team is thank you. Typically, I use this column to continually make fun of Ben Roethlisberger or lament the fact that I grew up in the Seattle, the worst sports city in the history of pro sports cities, or comment on the color of socks the Oregon Ducks happen to have worn the weekend prior. Not this week, though. These kids deserve a shout out.
So again, thanks. Thank you for giving us a great summer. You guys may have thought you had all the fun, but there are plenty of us out here in Central Oregon who had a good time, too. Let's do it again next year, eh?
Photo: Gordon Vasquez, Real TV Films