Saturday, August 24, 2002

Louisville Little Leaguers create frenzy


Community gives cash, plans trips for World Series heroes

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE - Dozens of signs cheering on the city's national championship-bound Little League team dot a 2-mile stretch of their south Louisville neighborhood. And inside many of those businesses, government offices and schools, neighbors are lending their support to the 11- and 12-year-old players from the Valley Sports team by collecting money and donating their services.

        “This team is bringing the community together,” said Barbara Wilson, general manager of Sweet & Sassy Tours. “They're inspiring a lot of other kids now.”

        Sweet & Sassy donated its two buses, while driver Dwight Hack and owner Carolyn Shoats volunteered to take fans on the nearly nine-hour trip to Pennsylvania for Saturday's game. More than 100 people have signed up to the trip, each paying $25 to help with gas.

        Valley Sports advanced to the national championship game of the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., with a 2-1 win over Fort Worth, Texas on Wednesday night. If Valley Sports wins today's U.S. championship game against Worcester, Mass., it advances to Sunday's Little League World Series final.

        At Shively Sporting Goods, hundreds of people stood in line to buy $10 Valley Sports T-shirts. For two consecutive days, Shively Sporting Goods sold out of the shirts within an hour. The store expected to sell nearly 1,000 shirts by today, with half of the proceeds going to the team.

        Sales manager Robbie Wine said the shop hasn't experienced a fan frenzy like this since the University of Louisville won a national basketball championship in the 1980s.

        “I think it's just catching their fancy,” Wine said. “With the possibility of a baseball strike, it's refreshing to see them. They're just 11- and 12-year-old kids.”

        Meanwhile at Conway Middle School, where team players Aaron Alvey, Josh Robinson and Wes Warden are enrolled, students and teachers donned mustard-colored shirts reading Great Lakes Valley Sports. Although the school requires students to wear uniforms, they were allowed to wear league jerseys and shirts Friday as part of the school's Spirit Day.

        “It's really hard to start class in the morning. There's a constant buzz,” said teacher Kim Carden. “We have to have some vent time to release that pressure.”

        The 11- and 12-year-olds' journey to the Little League World Series has made them celebrities in the community, students and teachers say.

        Seventh-grader Andrea Clark compiled a folder stuffed with articles written about the team and printouts of the players cards.

        “Kids that didn't know them talk about them,” Clark said. “All I want to talk about is them.”“This team is bringing the community together. They're inspiring a lot of other kids now.”

       



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