Going to the Little League World Series in 1998 was so much fun, past All-Stars coach Dave Mihalech is going to go again.
The coach of the Langley All-Stars team that represented Canada in Williamsport 13 years ago is making a surprise visit to Pennsylvania to cheer on the 2011 team.
“My wife and I are on an RV trip across Canada right now, and once we heard what happened to the All-Stars, we were so excited we decided we have to make a detour,” Mihalech said.
The Langley All-Stars won the Canadian Little League Championship, 11-0 against Valleyfield, Que., in the final held on Aug. 13. They are now down in Williamsport Pa., playing for Canada in the Little League Baseball World Series. This is the second time a Langley team has made it this far − the first was in 1998.
Reminiscing about the All-Stars journey 13 years ago, Mihalech says the boys will have to work hard to keep their excitement under control and their concentration up.
“The most challenging part is staying focused,” he said. “They will be worshiped while they are there.”
Not only are the teammates given new jackets, uniforms and bats, but they also have private pools to swim in and adoring fans everywhere.
Mihalech says he will never forget the line-up of 11, 12 and 13-year-old girls along the fence, all wanting attention and autographs from the boys.
“They won’t realize what they’re going through until several years later. It really is a surreal experience,” he said.
Like the 1998 team, the 2011 All-Stars are very well-balanced, hard working and good defensively. Mihalech believes they have a very good chance of making it far in the Series.
“They have to keep in mind every team is just as excited as they are. Yes, you may be nervous, but so is everyone else. I like to think the playing level is even,” he said.
Another factor the team has going for them is a low amount of travel fatigue. In 1998 the All-Stars went to Williamsport after already being on the road for a month. This year, because the Canadian championships were held in North Vancouver, the boys won’t have nearly as much fatigue.
“The best thing for them to do is not be afraid,” he said. “Just play their game and don’t be intimidated by anyone, and they seem to be focused.”
One of the neatest experiences for Mihalech in 1998 was the last night they were there. The team had just lost in a heartbreaker to Japan, and were set to fly back to Canada the next morning. Mihalech went into the pool where the boys were and found them swimming with the Japanese team.
“They were having fun and still full of excitement,” he said. “They weren’t upset about it, it just amazes me.”
That same night he also snuck down the the field and stole some dirt to give to the boys. He says they were so excited about it, they hardly slept.
“I still look back at the 1998 days as some of the most exciting days of my coaching career,” he said.
The All-Stars first game is Friday, Aug. 19 against Saudi Arabia.