Even before they play their first Williamsport game on Friday, the boys from Massapequa Coast have already made Long Island proud.
They are the first Long Island team to advance to the Little League World Series since Rockville Centre in 1978. They did so in commanding fashion, overcoming New Jersey powerhouse Toms River East in the Metro Regional final on the strength of a nine-strikeout no-hitter from 12-year-old Joey Lionetti Jr. These kinds of magical runs are invariably rooted in talent, perseverance, teamwork, the ability to thrive in big moments, and a little luck. Massapequa Coast is no exception.
Celebrations and congratulations all around.
Massapequa’s inclusion will make watching this joyful event even more exciting for Long Islanders. Full of flags and bunting and youngsters singing team songs, the 75-year-old tournament has been a heartwarming end-of-summer tradition. We turn to ESPN — or make the long drive to rural Pennsylvania to watch in person — expecting to see inspired play and uplifting international cooperation in a field that includes squads from Mexico, Japan, Chinese Taipei, and more. Most affecting are the deep emotions of youngsters competing on a big stage.
Perfection on the field is not the point. Indeed, the Rockville Centre team that last made it to Williamsport back in the Jimmy Carter administration earned its spot with a 3-0 win over Connellsville, Pennsylvania, when all three runs came off a bases-loaded fly ball to centerfield that was dropped.
Errors are part of the game, in the Little League World Series and in life. It’s a good lesson for the budding athletes and almost-teenagers, who learn sportsmanship and so much more as they compete.
There are stumbles. The tournament itself has had its share of scandals. Some coaches take things too far, either leading up to or during the competition. These are young kids. For every Todd Frazier, Gary Sheffield, Ruben Tejada, or Michael Conforto who plays in the LLWS and then makes it to the majors, there are hundreds of others who top out in college, high school, or the Little League field itself. They become basketball players, firefighters, scientists, or parents of future Little Leaguers. Their time spent in batting cages or taking grounder after grounder is a fleeting moment but with lasting dividends. Playing at age 11 and 12 becomes a memory, a lesson in how to compete, how to improve, how to work as a team, how to have fun.
We hope there are lots of baseball memories ahead for the Massapequa Coast crew — and maybe even a celebratory dogpile or Gatorade bath or two. They’ve already made some great memories for themselves, their families, and their communities.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.