I recently had the privilege of travelling from my home in Southern California to Craig, Alaska, to help with the Junior Little League District 2 and Alaska State tournaments as an umpire. One of the teams competing in the District tournament was from the Gastineau Channel Little League in Juneau; they bested a team from Ketchikan, and the host team from Prince of Wales Island, to take the District title, and later defeated a team from Anchorage to win the State title.
While in Craig, I umpired seven games involving the Juneau team, and my wife, Ginger (an enthusiastic spectator), and I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with the players, coaches and numerous parents (and grandparents) who accompanied the team. We had a great time both on and off the field, and as an umpire I’ll add that everyone from Juneau was very respectful and supportive, as well as being both gracious and humble in victory.
As winners of the State title, the Juneau team traveled to Irvine, Calif., to participate in the Western Regional tournament. Ginger and I attended several of the team’s games in Irvine, and continued to be impressed by the quality of play by the Juneau players; by their behavior on and off the field; and by the demeanor and enthusiasm of their parents/fans, many of whom are now our friends.
As your publication has documented, the Juneau team did not advance from the Regionals to the Junior League World Series. However, they finished with a respectable 2-3 record, with two of their losses incurred against the two eventual tournament finalists.
And while that is an accomplishment of which they should be proud, they achieved something else that should make the Juneau community even more proud: the Juneau team was overwhelmingly granted the Sportsmanship Award for the Western Regional Tournament, receiving 34 of 36 votes. I want to make sure that all of those involved with the team — the manager, coaches, players, and the many parents who traveled to Craig and/or to Irvine — receive the recognition that they deserve for representing your community and State in such an admirable manner.
In the words of one of the parents, the entire experience was a “great ride.” Thank you all for letting us tag along.
Mission Viejo, Calif.