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A World Series whirlwind

Baseball stars return to hometown welcome

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published August 29, 2017

 The Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League team returns to a hometown welcome after its run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League team returns to a hometown welcome after its run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

GROSSE POINTE WOODS — Amid cheers, handmade signs and chants of congratulations, the Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores Little League team returned to a hometown welcome Aug. 23 after its run in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Although the Great Lakes regional champions — ages 11 to 13 — were eliminated from championship contention in Game 2, a celebratory mood continued in the community. The Little League World Series was scheduled for Aug. 17-27, and was covered by ESPN and ABC.

Families and friends of the team and Grosse Pointe Woods and Shores city officials gathered on the front lawn of Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall to greet the star athletes when they returned after being away for several days. Grosse Pointe Woods residents Rich and Karlyn Jones, whose 12-year-old twin sons Jack and Ryan were part of the team, were among them.

“We can’t wait to see the boys,” Rich Jones said.

Rich and Karlyn Jones have watched the team develop as competitive players over the years.

“They have been together as excellent teammates since they were 8 years old,” Rich Jones said. “It’s been a great journey.”

For Karlyn Jones, watching the ballplayers succeed to the level of the Little League World Series “was surreal.”

“I don’t even know if it’s hit me yet,” Karlyn Jones said. “It was one beautiful day after another.”

Also awaiting the return of the sports stars were Robert and Carrie Cramer and their 12-year-old son, James.

“They’re a fantastic group of boys,” Carrie Cramer said. “We watched them on TV. It’s all very exciting.”

“It was so great to see the kids and the great sportsmanship,” said Robert Cramer, who coaches players 11 and younger in the league.

James Cramer knows some of the team members through school and baseball.

“It’s just kind of cool to see people I know on TV, and to know that they’re actually that good,” James Cramer said. “I feel like I don’t realize how special it is.”

When the champs made it by bus to the Grosse Pointe Woods city limits, Woods police escorted them to the front steps of Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall, where the team members were greeted with lots of hugs. They also signed autographs, talked about their Little League World Series experience and posed for pictures.

As the crowd quieted down, Grosse Pointe Woods Mayor Robert Novitke — from the podium — commented on the importance of the league’s presence in the city.

“We are immensely proud of these accomplishments to be the Michigan state champions and to be the Great Lakes regional champions,” Novitke said. “What a great program we have here with leadership, dedication and commitment. It sets a foundation for future years.”

Grosse Pointe Shores Mayor Pro Tem Robert Gesell also reflected on the season.

“It’s been a real joy to follow your progress and watching some of the excitement on TV,” Gesell said. “It’s something you will have your whole life. Congratulations.”

“I’m shocked by how many people were here to support us,” 13-year-old second baseman and outfielder Tommy Harris said. “It’s very exciting.”

For team member Tommy Schoeck, 13, of Grosse Pointe Shores, being on the field in Williamsport “just felt great.” He was able to “block everything out” and concentrate on the game.

“It’s fun because we get the experience of being there and being one of the top six teams,” said Schoeck, who primarily played outfield with a little bit of second  and third base.

Pitcher and left fielder Jack Jones, 12, was “sad that we lost,” but was “pretty  happy” to be back home. He feels the team’s “really good chemistry” led it as far as it went this season.

“Our team knows each other really well,” he said. “I just kept my head in the game trying to do the best I could.”

Matthew Greene, 13, who plays second base and pitches, was welcomed home by several family members, including grandparents Debbie and Nate Muccioli, of Grosse Pointe Woods.

“To play baseball for a bunch of people, the adrenalin you get from it, I was kind of nervous but excited at the same time,” Greene said.

“There are millions of Little Leaguers who wished to go to Williamsport. By the time you reach that point, win or lose, you’re a winner,” Debbie Muccioli said. “For these kids to experience this, it was an incredible journey. It’s not just about playing baseball. It’s about discipline and doing (press) interviews. They were responsible for a lot.”

The Little League World Series appearance by Woods-Shores marks the first time since 2013 that Michigan has been represented in the competition.

Woods-Shores lost its first game in Williamsport 5-1 to the Southwest champions from Texas. The team then lost to the Mid-Atlantic champions from New Jersey 15-5, before winning 11-7 against the Europe-Africa champions from Italy. Japan defeated Texas 12-2 to win the 2017 title as the series wrapped up.