The Massapequa Coast Little League team on Tuesday returned home to John J. Burns Park in Massapequa after a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. They fell short of the ultimate goal of winning the national championship, but the Metro champions arrived back on Long Island with memories that will last a lifetime. Credit: Newsday staff

The Massapequa Coast Little Leaguers returned to the site their historic run began Tuesday afternoon.

Massapequa Coast completed its roughly five-hour bus ride back from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania to John J. Burns Park in Massapequa Tuesday to dozens of excited fans, family members and supporters of the program.

Although the players wish their stay in Williamsport lasted longer than two games, the memories will never fade away.

“It was crazy, just knowing that we got to play there after starting out at that field over there,” said Michael Clark, 12, pointing to the field at Burns Park where the team’s Little League World Series run began. “It was just nuts.”

Massapequa Coast lost its first two games in Williamsport after winning the Metro championship in Bristol, Connecticut and becoming the first team from Long Island to reach Williamsport since Rockville Centre in 1978.

“It was really nice to be able to compete with the best teams and make history,” Clark said. “You get to know that you are one of the top 20 teams in the whole world and there’s a lot of kids that would love to be in that spot, but you have to earn it.”

The Massapequa Coast players and coaches never could have expected basically their entire summer would be spent competing in the Williamsport tournament. They’ll have a few days of summer relaxation before September 1 – Massapequa’s first day of school.
“It’s the ultimate Little Leaguer’s dream to make it to Williamsport,” coach Roland Clark said. “They were the best Little Leaguers on Long Island, the best Little Leaguers in New York State, the best Little Leaguers representing the Metro region.”

The players, coaches and parents were all in awe witnessing the Williamsport complex. Seeing the fields and players from all over the world is a memory the young players will never forget.
“Seeing all different countries practicing and in the batting cages with you was really cool,” said Brendan Hanley, a 12-year-old pitcher and outfielder. “It was very cool because everyone was watching us and congratulating us.”

The congratulations are only beginning. Each player received a team photo with the words “New York State champions” when they arrived off the buses Tuesday. There is expected to be a parade in their honor and the first day of school will surely be filled with friends and classmates wanting to hear about their experiences. Seeing their friends and loved ones greet them off the bus did raise the players’ spirits.

“It was really emotional,” Michael Clark said. “We all wanted to be home but I wish we were able to stay there longer. But you always have to come home sometime.”

The experience was equally thrilling for the parents. 

“It was surreal,” said Michelle Hanley, Brendan’s mother. “You watch your son live out his dreams in front of your eyes and you really can’t help but to sit back and have so much pride in him and his team and the amount of work they did to get here is amazing.”

“It was amazing,” said Sean Hanley, Brendan’s father. “To see him get up and pitch and get hits in a Little League World Series and as a team how well they did in the Regionals all the way through to here, it was excellent. It really was.”

And the parents even got to join the kids with some fun along the way. 

“It was great, we were all there, we got to see our sons on the biggest stage,” said Roland Clark, who is Michael’s father. “We slid down the hill as well, we traded pins and it was like an opportunity for adults to be 12-year-olds again.”

Massapequa Coast exited the bus at Burns Park with pride and glory. But they certainly haven’t gotten sick of being around one another.

“We’re very happy that we’re home to see everyone we haven’t seen in a while,” said Brendan Hanley. “I guess we’re just going to hang out some more.”

Massapequa Coast won 15 games over the summer to advance to Williamsport. None of those will be forgotten.

"You sit in the stands and they want to win and you want them to win, but really the life lessons they’ll get out of this experience really does just surpass that,” Michelle said. “They went into this as 12-year-old boys and I feel like they are stepping off the bus as young men.”

“It helped me mature and you know you have to earn your spot,” Michael said. “There’s a lot of kids that would want to take your spot but you just have to soak it all in.”

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