Westport LL's magical season ends, but cheers by local fans roll on
Updated 9:14 am, Sunday, August 25, 2013
Even though the Westport Little League team's championship season ended just short of the national title Saturday, the cheers from hometown fans kept on coming.
The local team -- and New England champion -- was handily defeated 12-1 by California in the Little League World Series' game for the U.S. crown, but they earned a standing ovation from local fans watching the broadcast from Williamsport, Pa., at the Black Duck Cafe.
Until that third out in the bottom of the sixth, the crowd at the "Duck," a longtime saloon tucked off Riverside Avenue, was still believing in their hometown heroes, still holding out hope they could pull of another come-from-behind victory like they had the day before to qualify for the national championship game.
But it was not to be, but not because of a lack of faith by those gathered at the Duck. Anyone who came to the cafe at 2:30 p.m. and tried to find a table for the 3:30 p.m. game, was out of luck.
"Every table is reserved, " said waiter Mike Pascarelli, who said he's seen guys he played Little League baseball with decades ago show up to watch this year's play by Westport in the World Series.
For Bryn Stephen, 12, it was a chance to root for former teammates. Bryn played Little League baseball until the fifth grade, when she switched to girls softball. That didn't stop her, however, from silently -- or not so silently -- "coaching" her former teammates.
"I love it," she said, as she waited for the game to start. "I've watched all the games."
It was difficult not to get swept up into the moment, with all eyes in the place riveted on the television screens. A misplayed ball by Westport prompted groans or fists banging on a table; a hit was greeted with cheers.
Halfway through the game, it was standing-room-only at the bar. Impromptu cheers of "Let's go Westport!" would rise up, as well as those scripted for the television cameras as local and New York television crews descended on the unpretentious watering hole.
As the Westport team fell farther behind California, some fans started to leave. Not the Bader family, however.
"We know a lot of the older brothers and parents,'" said Jaquie Bader. "It's exciting."
Robert Mills IV was not just cheering on the local team, he was giving his 8-year-old son, also named Robert, tips as the game wore on. The Fairfield residents were holding tight to their seats and table, a rare commodity at the waterside bar, as the tension mounted in hopes of a late Westport comeback.
"You can't make mistakes," Mills told his son, a player for Fairfield National Little League, as a Westport fielder muffed a play.
"It's awesome," Tanzer said.
And despite the outcome Saturday, it was clear the crowd at the Duck agreed.
That same ethnusiasm for the boys of Westport Little League is also sure to hit the streets -- Main Street, to be precise -- on Monday when the town officially celebrates the team's return with a 5 p.m. parade, culminating with ceremonies on Jesup Green.