The Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores baseball team is pictured in Williamsport, Pennsylvania — home of the Little League World Series.

The Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores baseball team is pictured in Williamsport, Pennsylvania — home of the Little League World Series.

Photo provided by Kurt Barr

The Williamsport experience

Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores manager reflects on Little League World Series experience

By: Mark Vest | Grosse Pointe Times | Published September 4, 2018


GROSSE POINTE WOODS/GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Autograph seekers. Photo requests.

No, Justin Timberlake wasn’t in town.

That was just part of life for members of the Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores baseball team during their recent run in the Little League World Series.

Manager Kurt Barr had been told what the experience was like, but there was no way for him to fully appreciate it until he personally made the trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Woods-Shores made it to the LLWS last season as well, but it’s a completely new roster, including the manager.

With games being aired on ESPN, as well as the popularity of social media, it can be challenging for players and managers to experience life as normal during those approximately two weeks in August.

“These people are so in tune with who these kids are, and who the coaches are,” Barr said. “You’re a celebrity there. … And it’s not an act. These people are so into it. They want pictures, and the girls are all over the boys.”

Although all the attention can be fun and can help create years of good memories, given that most players are 12 and younger, the experience is one that also has the potential to be overwhelming.

“It’s a big, big, stage, and the cameras only enhance that and make it bigger,” Barr said. “And it does put a lot of pressure on the kids. But, with that said, it makes it a lot of fun as well. And I think if you asked any of the kids, ‘Would you rather have the cameras or not have the cameras?’ they’d rather have the cameras. So, that was pretty cool.”

Players aren’t the only ones who experience pressure at the LLWS.

“When the stage gets that big, and everybody’s watching, and there’s more scrutiny, and all the negative stuff that comes along with the limelight, it puts a lot (of) pressure on the coaches,” Barr said. “It is really intense, and there’s hours and hours of video and scouting, game-planning, and strategy that goes into each and every single one of those games. It was exhausting. … So, for me, it was really, really, really tough. But, would I go back and do it again? Yes.”

Barr managed the team for approximately five years, when players were ages 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12.

He has been through a lot with his players, and has put much time and effort into his role as the team’s manager.

Barr discussed what it was like when the team achieved the goal of earning a trip to Williamsport.

“It was really emotional for me,” he said. “I’ve been emotional at any number of points in this whole run. But that was really overwhelming, quite frankly. … (The) hours, the hard work, and the relationships and everything that got put into this thing, at that moment, you realize that you’re going. I had tears in my eyes for quite a while after that.”

Barr’s son, Preston, who was a pitcher and shortstop on the team, described the experience of getting to go to Williamsport as “amazing.”

Woods-Shores finished 2-2 at the LLWS and was the first team from Michigan to win a game there since Hamtramck National won the World Series in 1959.

Although most players who play in the LLWS don’t go on to become Major League baseball stars, at least for a brief period in their lives, they can get a feel for the experience.

“It’s the biggest stage, I think, (in) sports for kids this age, and maybe, really, any age,” Kurt Barr said. “The things that they get to experience, the way that they’re treated, the venue in which they play at, and the field they play on, it’s first-class all the way around. And (it) was a really, really cool experience for me.”