This is the third of our four-part series, highlighting summer 2016 in sports, locally. Look for Part 4 on Tuesday.
WESTFIELD – The city’s youth baseball and softball leagues trotted out summer hopefuls on Opening Day in April. Westfield Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball’s City Cup and Amanti Cup championships were determined in late June. Westfield Post 124 attempted its annual run at the American Legion title as fireworks popped in the night skies.
The annual Kevin J. Major Memorial Hockey Tournament offered hockey fans a cool alternative.
Summer time truly belonged to one team, though, the Babe Ruth Baseball 14-Year-Old All-Stars, who hosted the league World Series for the first time in Westfield’s long-standing history.
Westfield lost in the series opener to Portland (Maine), 3-0, on a long, stormy opening day, which, thanks to Mother Nature, delayed the host team’s debut by more than two hours. Westfield proved its resilience in Game 2, rallying from a three-run deficit before falling to Bismarck (N.D.) late, 9-6. In Game 3, lightning and an electric Mountain Home (Arkansas) team zapped Westfield 10-1 in a contest that took two days to complete. In Game 4, Janesville (Wisconsin) rallied past a gassed Westfield squad, 2-1. After a grueling five-day stretch of storms and hot, humid temperatures, Westfield gutted out the final day of pool play to break through and topple West Linn (Oregon), 5-4.
Despite Westfield’s absence from the playoff portion of the World Series, fans were treated to an epic conclusion as Tri Valley (California) rallied past Bismarck in a championship slugfest, 9-6, for their second straight Series title.
“You dream about this stuff,” said Tri Valley lead-off batter Michael O’Hara, who was named the World Series Most Outstanding Player and tournament batting champion.
Those dreams might likely translate over to Division 1 college baseball and beyond as Tri Valley has been home to some Major Leaguers. Only time will tell.
There was more to the World Series, though, than met the eye.
For more than a hundred hours, players ate, drank, and slept baseball; fought back heat exhaustion (some players and fans were treated for such); dodged lightning strikes; forged camaraderie; and learned that hard work and teamwork best gets the job done.
Several members of the community – politicians, business leaders, and volunteers alike – teamed up to pull off one of the most grueling and epic sporting events the city has likely ever seen.
While a spruced up ball field at Bullens has been forged for the future, the spirit behind those efforts will have even more powerful effects on the community at-large for several years to come.
The summer sports season may have ended for most, but for one member of the Westfield Babe Ruth Baseball 14-Year-Olds coaching staff, Billy Lamirande, fall would offer very little rest as he announced his plans to take over as athletic director at St. Mary High School.
It was not the only shakeup locally as Barnes Municipal Airport manager Brian Barnes stepped down from his post at the airport to replace Carole Appleton as executive director of Amelia Park.