Despite their season-ending loss to Team Mexico at the Little League Baseball World Series last week, the White Rock All-Stars continued to make lifelong memories before returning home Monday afternoon.
The 11- and 12-year-old boys were guests of honour at Rogers Centre Sunday at the Toronto Blue Jays’ home game against the Minnesota Twins. (The Twins won 7-2.)
The boys caught a 5 a.m. bus Sunday from Williamsport, Pa. and participated in the Jays’ batting practice, before being introduced to the field during the pre-game national anthem. The team was also given a private box to watch the game.
Prior to that event, the boys took a bus Friday to New York City to explore Manhattan and watch the Seattle Mariners beat the New York Yankees 2-1.
The All-Stars, who wore Team Canada jerseys during the Aug. 17-27 World Series, finished the international portion of the tournament in third place with a 2-2 record, beating Italy (12-2) and Venezuela (7-3) and losing to Japan (10-0) and then Mexico – the team’s final match of the season – 6-2.
Their last two games of the series were the All-Stars’ only losses all season.
Coach Ryan Hefflick called the experience – both on and off the field – one that’s “life changing.”
“To have the opportunity to play on this stage against the best team in the world and to finish in the top teams, 6,700 Little League teams started this post-season and we made it to the top six,” Hefflick told Peace Arch News by phone Saturday.
“Even though our last two losses were hard to take, we thought we had a team that could beat Mexico and we were right there with them until the end. To look back at it and say we were in the top six of nearly 7,000 teams, we can definitely keep our heads high.”
What was surprising about the World Series, Hefflick said, was the number of fans Team Canada gained throughout the Aug. 17-27 event.
“We earned a lot of fans down here. Every time I saw someone in a Canadian jersey I thought they may have been from Ontario or Quebec driving down, but no, they were Americans. They obviously got attracted to something we were doing on the field and were purchasing jerseys and hats themselves and cheering us on. That was pretty astounding for us as coaches and players to learn.”
Hefflick attributed the team’s success to having the “right ingredients.”
“You have to have the right mix of players, the right coaching. Most importantly, as a team, you have to put in the work to do it. You have to have a little bit of luck on the way, too. You need some bounces in tough games. It’s a combination of a lot of things.”
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who watched the Team Canada’s game against Mexico last Thursday, said the boys’ sportsmanship makes them great ambassadors for the country.
“They really are, they’ve been good sports, the coaches have been great. I like the way (the coaches) treated the kids and encouraged them to enjoy themselves and just take it in, it’s just a game.
“They did their best and that’s all you can ask for,” Baldwin told PAN Friday.
Baldwin noted that it’s the fourth time White Rock All-Stars teams have represented Canada in the World Series – in 2007, 2008, 2015 and 2017 – and that this year was the best showing the country had in the past 20 years.
“We’re really proud of them,” Baldwin said.
“We’ve got a longstanding culture of doing really well – excellence, I guess you could say – in baseball and girls fastpitch. I’m not sure why, it might be because success breeds success. It started with the fastpitch, the girls’ Renegades had such great success (winning the nationals on Lloydminster, Alta. Aug. 6) that it moved on to the boys (who won the nationals Aug. 12 in Medicine Hat, Alta.).
“That encouraged the coaches to come forward and with coaching comes players.
“It’s just been really great to build on.”