Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League celebrates the Great Lakes
Championship last weekend. On Friday, the team plays its first game in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
August 15, 2013It's been 34 years between trips, but a local team is making history with a run to Little League's biggest stage.
The Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League team travels to Williamsport, Pa., to take part in the 67th Little League Baseball World Series, a two-week, double- elimination tournament.
The team's first game is against Eastlake Little League of Chula Vista, Calif., the West champion, at 3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16. If Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores wins, they'll play again at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18. If they lose Friday, they'll play 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 17. All three games are televised on ESPN. The tournament features eight teams in the United States pool and eight teams in the International pool. Both pools have championshipgames Aug. 24, with the third place game and the championship game both coming Sunday, Aug. 25.
A complete schedule is available at littleleague.org. A link to game information, results and follow-up stories is available
Michael Walkowiak, a Grosse Pointe Farms resident who played on the Grosse Pointe Woods- Shores team that went to Williamsport in 1979, said they were led by No. 1 pitcher and hitter Dave Waldeck.
"Everyone kicked in at key times to help propel us to Williamsport," said Walkowiak, vice president of Multi-Bank Securities. "The team had a good feeling as several of us on the 1979 team won the state championship the year before as 11 year olds. We lost in the regionals in 1978 which was one step from Williamsport. It made us that much hungrier in 1979."
While they made the trip, they didn't fare as well in Williamsport.
"We gave Campbell, Calif., a run for their money in the first game, leading 5-4 in the fifth inning," Walkowiak said. "I scored the fi fth run by jumping over the catcher as he crouched low to make the tag. The photo was printed worldwide as it was captured by both AP and UPI. But they scored four runs in their fi fth to knock us out, 8-5."
Most of the tournament's games – and all of the winner's bracket games – are televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. While only the championship game was televised in 1979, Walkowiak said it was cool playing in front of 25,000 fans in Williamsport.
The memories, good and tough, last a lifetime.
"The best part was meeting other players from all over the globe," Walkowiak said. "Kids from Latin America, Taiwan and Europe all coming together and getting along great … just being kids. The toughest part had to be losing to California. I really thought we had the better team. We scored five runs off their best pitcher and Taiwan beat him in the fi nal with only two runs."
Still, Walkowiak counts his trip to Williamsport as a great experience.
"Little League builds character and creates camaraderie into adulthood that cannot be measured," he said. "For all the hundreds of thousands of kids that play worldwide every year, making it to Williamsport is only enjoyed by very few."
Walkowiak, whose baseball career ended in high school, cheered his oldest son, Jack, to the regionals two years ago, but they came up two games short of Williamsport. His younger son, Mickey, played on the team that lost to the Woods-Shores team that's off to Pennsylvania this year.
He'll be cheering the local heroes this week.
"I sent manager Tom Mazzola a text the other day congratulating him and his team," Walkowiak said. "I told him to cherish and savor every moment and make sure he tells his kids that. Time fl ies so quick when you get caught up in all the hoopla and many activities that Williamsport brings to everyone involved.
"Good luck, boys. All the Pointes will be rooting for you," he said.