Ruthie Laroche – Messenger Sports
Chris Ste Marie has dreamed of visiting Williamsport, PA, and attending the Little League World Series since he was a kid.
On Wednesday, August 14th, he and his wife Jamie, their 10-year old son Camryn, and Camryn’s friend Carter White packed up and headed to Pennsylvania.
Camryn and Carter both played on a Northwest Little League district team this summer, coached by Jamie. The boys were ecstatic to take the trip and see where Little League Baseball reaches its pinnacle.
“Camryn and Carter are at the age where they can soak it up and have memories for a lifetime,” said Jamie, smiling.
The first game of the tournament began at 1 pm on Thursday, and the Ste Maries were there to see it.
“When we first walked in and come over the hill we were in awe!” explained Jamie. “It’s such an amazing facility. It’s just like an MLB park.”
Perfectly manicured fields, lush and green with beautifully mowed patterns filled their view. The ballparks they’d seen on TV stood before them, miniatures of their big league counterparts.
The famous sliding hill behind center field at Lamade Stadium was the family’s destination, and it didn’t disappoint.
“Sliding on that hill is a Little League World Series tradition! People of all ages were sliding on the hill,” said Jamie. “It’s something you have to do.”
On Friday morning the boys found cardboard and were preparing to slide down the hill when a news reporter approached Jamie and Chris.
“Camryn and Carter were interviewed by a local news channel and made the news,” said Jamie.
For Camryn and Carter, the hill and the moments of fame were very exciting.
“I liked sliding down the hill, being on ESPN, and being on the big screen in the park!” said Camryn.
The atmosphere at the park also made for a memorable experience.
“Everyone was like family,” said Jamie, “and some people have been coming for two decades. They’re all there for the kids and the game of baseball.”
Back home in Highgate, Jamie’s mom was watching the games on TV.
“She saw the boys on ESPN!” said Jamie, “and texted me to tell me.”
The Ste Maries took in a night game, the Mid-Atlantic Region against the Northwest Region. New Jersey fans showed up enforce to watch their home-state team earn a 6 to 2 win over Oregon.
“The night game was intense! The New Jersey team had three coach buses bringing fans in for the game,” said Jamie.
“The stands are broken up into sections. There’s one for the families of players, one for the home team fans, and one for the away team fans,” explained Jamie. “The chanting went back and forth and it was always very positive!”
The atmosphere of the games left a marked impression on the Ste Marie family. When asked about a favorite game, Jamie couldn’t pick one.
“Every game had an amazing play, and the teams all had their own unique handshakes and rituals that set them apart,” said Jamie.
The ‘Jersey Shake,’ as it’s been dubbed, began in Williamsport with the New Jersey team and has made its way to mainstream TV.
“Now MLB players are doing the ‘Jersey Shake’ when they get a good hit,” said Jamie in wonder. “It’s amazing how things from those games travel everywhere.”
The quality of game-play at the tournament was eye-opening.
“It was baseball at its finest,” said Jamie. “The players were awesome, and it seemed like it just came naturally to them.”
There was plenty of good hitting on display during eight the games the Ste Marie’s attended, but not a lot of home runs.
“We were seeing everyone’s first games and all the top pitchers,” said Chris.
The two home runs they did see allowed them to take in an interesting Little League World Series tradition.
“Volunteers find the person in the crowd with the home run ball and exchange that ball with a new one so the hitter can have his ball back,” explained Jamie.
The players on the competing teams spent time in the crowd and didn’t hesitate to say hello to eager fans.
Camryn and Carter got to give high fives to some of the players from team Mexico and they spent time talking with two kids from the Southwest team.
“The thing that struck me was that when you saw the kids out and about, they were mingling with everyone just like kids,” said Chris, “but when they got on the field they were young men in the way they played the games.”
Staying from Wednesday to Sunday allowed the family to see some of the teams they had watched on television during the regional portion of the tournament.
“We felt like we knew some of the teams. We found we were standing up to see if they’d make a catch and we cheered when they made an amazing play,” said Jamie. “We were into it!”
The diversity at the park was also something the family enjoyed and it added to the excitement.
“It was really neat to see and hear how different the cultures were,” said Jamie. “We could relate to each other even though we didn’t understand what they are saying. It truly was a cultural experience.”
After taking the trip, the Ste Maries would encourage others to follow suit, and they had a few tips to offer.
Lodging in Williamsport was pricey, so the family stayed in a town forty minutes away. Traffic wasn’t bad, and the trip to the park was straight forward.
People in the town of Williamsport charge $10 for parking spaces on their lawns, and the Ste Maries found parking close to the ballfield complex every day.
Admission to the park is free, but it’s good to note that the food was expensive inside the venue. Jamie noted that many families were tailgating–cooking hotdogs and eating peanut butter sandwiches in the parking areas.
When asked if it was a worthwhile trip, the answer was instant and affirmative.
“If you can make it down and you live the game of baseball, it’s worth it,” said Jamie. “It’s an experience of a lifetime!”
The Little League World Series Championship game will take place this Saturday at 3 pm in Lamade Stadium.