After rolling through district, provincial and national championships – losing just a single game along the way – the White Rock All-Stars are set to hit the international stage.
Late Monday, the team of 12-year-olds arrived in Williamsport, Pa. – the longtime home of the prestigious Little League World Series – and Friday they step onto the diamond for their first game, against Mexico.
It promises to be a busy, exciting week for the Peninsula crew, and one full of new experiences.
For starters, their audience will get a whole lot larger; they’ll play Friday at Volunteer Stadium in Williamsport – with a seating capacity of 5,000 – and the game will also be broadcast live on television, on TSN3.
The tournament’s other venue – Howard J. Lamade Stadium – is even larger, with a maximum capacity of 40,000 fans.
And when the White Rock Little Leaguers step out on the grass in front of all those fans, they’ll do so wearing Canada’s official colours, rather than the teal, black and grey White Rock uniforms they’ve sported since the beginning of the summer.
Upon arrival at the World Series, the team was outfitted with black and red Team Canada threads.
And though they are thrilled to be representing Canada at such an event, head coach Bob Cumiskey insists his young squad isn’t simply in “happy-to-be-here” mode.
Put simply, their goal is to win.
“Our expectations for Williamsport are to have a great experience, but also play the best baseball we can play and see where the cards fall,” Cumiskey told Peace Arch News.
“Obviously, the best teams in the world are here, but we also feel we are very good and we believe in ourselves – we are not just here for the ride.”
No Canadian team has ever won the Little League World Series, and no national team has made it to the finals since a squad from Stoney Creek, Ont. made it that far in 1965.
White Rock teams have twice before represented Canada at Williamsport, during a two-year stretch from 2007-’08. In both tournaments, White Rock won once in three round-robin games and did not advance through to the playoff rounds.
This year’s White Rock team has lost just once all summer – a one-run loss in a round-robin game at nationals last week in suburban Ottawa – and captured a Canadian title Sunday afternoon after a 16-0 victory over East Nepean, Ont.
“We thought (the game) versus East Nepean would be much closer, but our boys just came out swinging the bat early and took the home crowd out of it,” Cumiskey explained.
No matter the outcome this week, Cumiskey said, the boys are “thrilled” to have accomplished what they have already, and also heaped praise on the association back home.
“It’s great to be another representative from (White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association) as it shows the strength of all our people who volunteer their time to grow the game of baseball,” he said.
“The boys are over the moon to fulfill a boyhood baseball dream.”
For more on the Little League World Series, including a full schedule (Canada’s game times beyond Friday’s opener depend on wins and losses), visit www.llbws.org
Some individual player statistics from the Canadian Little League Championships – posted online by tournament scorekeepers and published in Wednesday’s Peace Arch News – were incorrect.