The dream of every Little League player in the country is to play in the Little League World Series.
And it’s no different here in Newark, where the 11 players on Newark American Little League’s (NALL) Majors All-Star team are hoping to become just the second Delaware team to advance to the country’s most-publicized youth sports event.
So far, Naamans Little League in 2003 is the lone Delaware team to ever play in the Little League World Series.
But with District 2 Tournament now underway, the local stars have been practicing daily since the middle of June, with hopes that their rigorous baseball schedule will pay off with a chance to travel to Williamsport, Pa., in August.
The all-star team is made up of just that: stars. Each player is asked to shed his team’s regular-season jersey and wear the league’s uniform. Each player sacrifices individual favorite positions – typically, just about every all-star played in the infield and pitched during the regular season – for the good of the team.
Jeff Maguire is the man the NALL appointed to manage this group of stars, a position he welcomes.
“I was lucky enough to be voted in as manager,” Maguire said of his first-time selection. “It’s an honor.”
Being selected to play on the team is an honor bestowed each year on a select few players in every Little League organization around the world. The players on NALL Majors All-Star team are: Jeff Carlson, Ben Dewberry, Ellis Dorr, Jack Hahn, Stephen Halada, Josh Maguire, Will Reader, Jarret Rogerson, Chris Simpson, Marshall Smith and Patrick Swain. Assistant coaches are Dan Hahn and Dan Reader.
Maguire is charged with assembling these talented individual players into one cohesive unit.
“Managing kids of this caliber is a treat,” Maguire said. “As the manager, the challenging part is putting every player in the right position for them to be successful. The kids have all come together and learned new positions very well and that is great to see.”
Maguire is excited that his players have high hopes, but at the same time, he has continued to stress the importance of staying focused on the immediate task at hand.
“The boys know that [Williamsport] is a possibility, but our philosophy is one game at a time,” Maguire explained. “We are most excited about the opportunity to play some great baseball and possibly even bring the District 2 championship home to NALL.”
To reach the District 2 championship game, NALL players are going to have the difficult task of doing so from the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
NALL’s Ellis Dorr went 3-for-4 with a grand slam and Josh Maguire went 3 for 4 with a double during Sunday night’s game, but the team still lost 15-13 to Canal. This means the all-stars are facing elimination Thursday night when they take on Midway at 5:30 at the Suburban Little League complex.
Despite the opening loss, Maguire said he continues to stress that fundamentals, not necessarily great plays, win tournament games, and that the all-star experience goes beyond the game on the field.
“I want the kids to try and enjoy this time,” Maguire said. “And not only the baseball, but the friendships and memories they will make for life.”
At some point, NALL’s run will come to an end. It might be here in Delaware, or maybe in Connecticut at the Regional Tournament, or maybe, if in fact 11 dreams do come true, in Williamsport. But no matter where it ends, Maguire is confident the team will have no regrets.
“I know the kids will be disappointed if we don't perform like we all know they can and have in practice,” he said. “We will consider it a success if all of our hard work comes together as we hope it will and the boys enjoy the success they deserve.”
Canal Little League Majors All-Stars roster: Tyler Croce, Michael Deery, Hunter Kearns, Sean Kelby, Matthew Kohan, Conner Kolek, Travis Lewis, Joseph Lungen, Owen McCartan, Robert Shorts, Joshua Venti, Austin Warrington, and manager Dave Kohan.
Newark National Little League Majors All-Stars roster: Matt Ryan, Jeffery Engelmann, Nick Cichocki, Nick Zegna, Danny Miller, Joe Silan, Clayton Hansen, Dominic Petrucci, Matthew Theodorakis, Andrew Emory, Nate Hardcastle, Jack Dubecq, manager Nick DiMartine and coaches John Talley and Tim Bush.
Reach Jon Buzby at JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @jonbuzby on Twitter.