Fan-demonium: Thousands of hometown fans salute Westport Little League champs
Wilton resident Jeff Rousseau is retired and has no direct connection to Westport, but he was so inspired by the Westport Little League team's run to the U.S. Championship Game in Williamsport, Pa., that he joined the cheering throng lining downtown streets and Jesup Green on Monday evening to salute the team.
"Halfway through the Williamsport thing we started watching and it was very exciting, very engaging," Rousseau said. "These guys were really playing with their hearts, coming back, never giving up. We got emotionally involved, very inspiring. I hope a lot of young kids were watching because these kids were great role models."
Rousseau was among the thousands who turned out for a welcome-home parade that began at the intersection of Avery Place and Main Street and made its way to Jesup Green for a celebration of the team's feats, which included winning the New England title.
The town-sponsored procession also honored the town's 10- and 11-year-old girls' all-star softball team, which won the state championship.
During the parade players and coaches from both teams rode atop flat beds and tossed candies to the cheering crowd, which included workers in Main Street office windows and even spectators perched on rooftops.
Carol Malone, 75, sat in a lawn chair as the procession went by.
"I had to come down and cheer these kids on. I watched every game, it was unbelievable," Malone said. "I don't know any of them, have no relation to any of them, but they did us proud and I just want to show my support and appreciation."
Allyson Joachim said she didn't know of the Little League players personally, either. But the Westport resident had been watching the tournament closely.
"I'm so proud of the kids and what they have accomplished. It's a nice community, a nice group of kids, and I'm very proud of them," she said.
John Drbal's son, Christopher, is a player on the team and he called the parade an impressive outpouring of support.
"It's a good way to recap the whole thing. It's a great thing the town's doing," Drbal said.
"It's highly unusual, but it's a highly unusual event. It deserves a parade and everything else Westport can muster," Joseloff said.
Jeff Mitchell, a board member of the Westport Little League, said the parade was a fitting tribute.
"This is far, far more than we ever expected. In our entire history, this is by far our best team at any level," he said. "What the kids accomplished was just magical. Every step along the way a new exciting surprise, where Westport had never been before, and made it even better."
Carrie Howard, 45, said she and her family came to the celebration to cheer for both the boys and the girls teams.
"We wanted to come down and support them. It doesn't happen very often, it's a big event in town," Howard said.