“It is a kick to the teeth”. That’s how Senior League World Series tournament director Mike Brooker described the feeling when Little League officials recently delivered some devastating news. The 2016 Senior League World Series would be the final one held in the Queen City, at least for the foreseeable future.
The news came as a result of Little League Baseball’s decision to dissolve its Big League division for players up to age eighteen. The World Series for this age group had been held in Easley, South Carolina since 2001, one year prior to the Senior League World Series coming to Bangor. The elimination of an age division obviously meant a city would lose their World Series. Unfortunately, that community was Bangor, Maine. Easley, South Carolina, while losing the Big League World Series, will be the new home of the Senior League World Series.
I, like many others involved with the Senior League World Series over the past fifteen years, share Mike’s sentiments. Whether we were on the World Series staff, played or coached, or simply enjoyed the event as fans, the Senior League World Series had become a highlight of our year. And now it’s gone. When I heard the news, I like many others were shocked and heartbroken. Then my mind flashed back through fifteen glorious years. There are players who I watch every night in the Major Leagues who played right where I reside. There were great teams, teams from around the country and all over the world, who graced the manicured surface of Mansfield Stadium.
Those of us who have been involved with the SLWS know we are losing much more than a baseball tournament. While we saw great baseball over the past fifteen years, what I’ll really miss are the people. I’ve been given the opportunity to make friends from all over the world, some I’ve still maintained contact with years later. It is those forged relationships which transformed the SLWS from just a baseball tournament into an event of goodwill and friendship.
Through the heartbreak many can hold their heads high knowing they gave everything to provide the best experience possible. Maybe that’s why this hurts so much. When you have so much invested in a grand event like this it does hurt when it’s over. It is especially too bad seeing the momentum the world series had developed in recent years. It was no longer just a Bangor event but truly a district-wide experience. The communities of Old Town and Hampden-Hermon should be proud in the way they supported their teams the last two years.
There are so many people to thank for a wonderful fifteen years. A special thank you goes out to Stephen and Tabitha King for giving of their resources to build such a beautiful ballpark. Obviously without a stadium a world series could not be hosted. Thank you to Mike Brooker, and many others, who had a vision of pursuing this opportunity for our city. Thank you to Ron St. Pierre, David Mansfield, and the entire Mansfield Stadium staff. St. Pierre, and many dedicated grounds crew members, work tirelessly maintaining the field, creating a playing surface that rivals any.
I want to also thank those who I have worked with over the past fifteen years in the press box at Mansfield Stadium. We have developed quite a rapport and have shared many stories, some of which are not fit to be printed. Our official scorer, Al Hackett, is a wealth of baseball knowledge who we often look to for guidance.. Our online scorer Chris DeBeck is always handy, either printing off line-up cards, or trying to keep his sanity dealing with a myriad of requests. Matt Donohue admirably filled that role prior to Chris coming on board a few years back.
For the 2014 Senior League World Series, a message board was installed to enhance the stadium experience. Operating the message board has been statistical guru Tom Hanscom, who always seems to lighten the mood in the press box with his quick wit. He is also pretty solid with his press box karaoke between innings.
Yes, I am heartbroken, heartbroken that we likely will not be able to experience the wonder of this great event. When I look back, however, I am reminded that I had the opportunity to enjoy fifteen wonderful years doing what I love. Those my heart truly breaks for are the youngsters coming up, who only witnessed one or two world series. I think of those who won’t have the opportunity to play in front of throngs of fans, playing opponents many of whom would have instantly become friends. That was the magic of the Senior League World Series.
If 2016 was to be our final Senior League World Series held in Bangor, what a way to end a great run. Every team that came represented their communities in exemplary fashion. It has truly been an honor and privilege to have witnessed such great baseball and to have met so many amazing people over the past fifteen years. To those who have allowed me to play a small role and to those who have supported the Senior League World Series over the past fifteen years, all I can say is: Thank you!
Next week I will look at the potential fallout for baseball in the area as a result of losing the world series.
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