BOSTON (CBS) — On Monday night, the Little League team from Rhode Island lost a thriller against a team from Chicago, sending the kids from Cumberland home from Williamsport, Pa.
It was a hard-fought, 8-7 game, and it was one that kept viewers on the edge of their seats until the final out was recorded.
Anyone who watched any Rhode Island games during the tournament likely noticed the team’s coach, Dave Belisle, stand out among his peers. With the coach mic’d up, viewers could hear Belisle’s words of encouragement and support for his players even when they were struggling. On Monday night in particular, after a pitcher had given up the league, Belisle took to the mound and congratulated the young man for a job well done. Such a strategy stood in contrast to some other coaches, who would visit the mound and ask players “Can you get this done for me?” while standing on the sidelines and watching a 12-year-old kid cry his eyes out in the middle of a game.
And in Monday night’s game, Belisle was positive until the very last moment. ESPN showed video of Belisle in the dugout prior to the final at-bat, stating definitively, “We’re walking off.” Facing an Illinois pitcher who was throwing 75 mph, Belisle let one of his players know that he has the strongest wrists on the team and can definitely get a hit. He did.
So it was fitting that after the elimination loss, Belisle delivered a speech to his team that perfectly captured the essence of playing in Williamsport. All too often, these 12 and 13-year-old kids feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, and what should be a fun experience turns into devastating heartbreak. Even though the players sometimes feel the same pressures as major leaguers, the fact is that it’s likely that none of them end up becoming professional baseball players, and the trip to Williamsport should be seen as the most enjoyable memory of their athletic careers.
Sensing his kids were feeling down after Monday’s loss, Belisle delivered the following words to his team:
Everybody, heads up high. Heads up high. Let’s talk for a moment. I’ve got to see your eyes, guys.
There’s no disappointment, in your effort in the whole tournament and the whole season. It’s been an incredible journey. We fought — look at the score, 8-7, 12-10 in hits — it came to the last out, we didn’t quit. That’s us! Boys, that’s us.
The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is because this is the last time I’m going to end up coaching you guys. But I’m going to bring back with me, and the coaching staff is going to bring back with me, and you guys are going to bring back something that no other team can provide but you guys, and that’s pride. OK? Pride. You’re going to take that for the rest of your life, what you provided for a town in Cumberland.
You had the whole place jumping, right? You had the whole state jumping, you had New England jumping, you had ESPN jumping, OK? Because you want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys who don’t quit. They like guys who play the game the right way.
We got down to the nitty-gritty. We’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second — for the world. So we need to go see our parents, because they’re so proud of you. One more, I want a big hug. I want everyone to come in here for one big hug. Then we’re going to go celebrate with our parents, and then tomorrow we’re going to celebrate, and then we’re going to come back home to a big parade. OK? Got it?
I love you guys, I’m gonna love you forever, and you’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time — a long time. I’m getting to be an old man, I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys, you’ll be the boys of summer.
So for the last time, we’re gonna try to suck it up and we’re gonna yell Americans, OK? 1-2-3 …
OK, boys. Good job.
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