Boys of Summer
As the year ends, one last cheer for Westport Little League
Westport Little League
Photographs: Helen Klisser During
It was one of the last precious days of a Westport summer, a season, which, sadly, seems to get shorter each year. In-boxes were cluttered with back-to-school messages, homework packets needed to be completed, schedules finalized. But on that August afternoon, nothing would be accomplished. Our beloved boys of summer were playing and we wouldn’t miss a minute.
The Westport Little League champions—number one in New England, second in the nation, fourth in the world—displayed a love of the game so infectious, it made us stop, so we could watch them win on their sun-soaked ball fields. “There’s something so pure about twelve-year-olds playing baseball, there’s such innocence,” says Coach Tim Rogers, kicking back on his family room couch on an early fall evening, a football game on television muted. Why was it that we all sat rapt before our screens, volume up, becoming fluent in the Little League players’ nicknames and statistics? Rogers believes the town was captivated by the boys because of the way they conducted themselves. “They really knew how to play together as a team and compliment each other and support each other…You never saw anybody cry, you never saw anybody throw a bat.”
And for Rogers, never was that more true than at a critical moment: when the team was on the brink of elimination in the game against Sammamish, Washington. “I remember how they were acting when they were down by seven…nobody was down, they continued to cheer for each other…all the things we talk about as adults and as coaches? They came true in that half hour.”
At the end of that span, Chad Knight lifted Westport over Sammamish 14–13 and into the U.S. championship game. Janet Rogers, a familiar face in the stands thanks to the ever-present ESPN-2 cameras, says despite the media attention and requests for autographs, the players stayed humble. She recalls one of Chad’s post-game interviews. “One of his comments was, ‘It’s not just me, I’m a part of a team.’ That’s the mentality they have.”
Being on the road for nearly a month, Tim Rogers says he didn’t realize the extent of the fan frenzy building back home, until friends started sending pictures. “We kept hearing about the signs in the stores, the parties at the restaurants…we heard about it all…but we never really felt it until we came home from Williamsport Sunday night and the next day it was like, ‘Holy cow, all these people are here!’ ”
An estimated 3,000 people turned out for the Main Street parade and rally on Jesup Green. Player Drew Rogers says, “It was a great feeling to have so many people cheering for us and waving to us….I was amazed at how excited Westport was as a town.”
Also honored at the rally: The Westport 10–11 Little League girls All Star softball team after they routed Enfield 16–0 at Newington to win the state championship—the first Little League title for that Westport program.
This banner year for baseball led First Selectman Gordon Joseloff to proclaim August 26, 2013, “Westport Little League Day.” His words to the players at the rally perhaps best summarize our town’s awesome August: “You made us all kids once again, for a shining moment in the summer of 2013.”