SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Caleb Barker walked from beyond the outfield fence into Volunteer Stadium with his 13 Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League teammates and thought, simply, “Wow.”

They were participating Wednesday morning in the opening ceremonies of the Little League World Series, with each of the 20 teams parading into the stadium behind its state or national flag, the stands filled with fans cheering and clapping and yelling encouragement to the Boys of Summer.

“It really began to sink in,” said Barker, a pitcher and shortstop. “We’re one of the 10 best (Little League) teams in the United States, one of the 20 best teams in the world. It’s just a huge accomplishment.”

The World Series began shortly after the opening ceremonies, with four games played Wednesday at the complex featuring Volunteer Stadium and Lamade Stadium.

The Maine state champs, representing New England, play their first game at 3 p.m. Thursday in historic Lamade Stadium against the Northwest Region champions from Northeast Seattle, a matchup featuring a team from a city of nearly 800,000 against a team from three towns totaling about 11,000 residents.

Manager Brad Shelley knows his team is the underdog, but he’s OK with that. They’ve been the underdog at every step so far, not favored to win District 6 in southern Maine, not favored to win the state tournament, and definitely not favored to win the New England regional.


“We’re going to have to do the same things we’ve been doing,” he said. “It’s still nine kids out on the field. You still have to get 18 outs.”

Gray-NG has been in Williamsport since Friday, traveling by bus from Bristol, Connecticut, early that morning after a dramatic 2-1 win over Massachusetts in the regional title game.

They’ve practiced and practiced and practiced some more. They’ve played video games in the arcade room in their dormitory, as well as ping-pong and air hockey, getting to know many members of opposing teams.

But it really wasn’t until Wednesday morning, as they walked into the stadium, many seeing family members for the first time in over a week – text messages and FaceTime are one thing, hugs are another – that they knew they had entered something beyond their dreams. After all, it is, as Shelley said, “the pinnacle of Little League experience.”

“It was amazing,” said third baseman Alex Hanlon. “It’s really crazy, just amazing to walk onto that field.”


“It definitely sunk in that this means a lot,” said catcher Mason Amergian. “When I walked in, all I could think about was how we had represented Gray-New Gloucester, and are representing Gray-New Gloucester and the state.”

It was a powerful feeling, one that touched even the parents.

Sadie Rioux, whose son Gage is on the team, and Ani Amergian, whose husband (Mike, an assistant coach) and son (Mason) have bonded like never before, got choked up while talking about watching their children and their friends walk into the stadium.

“It’s been emotional all week, knowing how hard they worked to get here,” said Ani Amergian. “I feel like we’re watching their dreams play out in real time. It’s humbling. It’s … hard to put into words, seeing them out there.”

“That was way more emotional than I thought it would be, seeing them come in here,” said Sadie Rioux. “It really put it all into perspective, what these boys have accomplished.”


Gray-NG is just the fourth team from Maine to ever advance to the Little League World Series, the last coming in 2005 when Westbrook went 1-2. It hasn’t lost a game since Shelley put its roster together, going 12-0. They’ve outscored opponents 82-9 and defeated powerhouse Massachusetts twice in the regional tournament.

Not bad for a league that had never advanced past its own District 6 tournament.

Second baseman Ivan Deemer was always confident. “Our team chemistry has been great,” he said. “We’ve all been friends for a long time.”

And that, said first baseman Mason Wescott, has been a big factor.

“We all work as one,” he said.

Some parents arrived here with the team on Friday. They’ve been able to spend some time with the boys when they haven’t had other commitments. “They keep us busy,” said Shelley. “There’s not really a lot of down time.”


There’s been sit-downs with ESPN and, of course, the parade Monday night through town where they signed hundreds of autographs. Joe and Jennifer Barker, here since Friday with their 10-year-old son Austin, took some of the team to a mini-golf course on Tuesday night.

“This is the experience of a lifetime,” said Joe Barker. “They worked really hard to get here, but it’s still hard to believe. Still, I knew there was something special about this group from the start. And they have just played better and better and better.”

And while Jennifer Barker said she has missed the time she would normally have with Caleb, “he’s where he belongs right now. And we’re behind him every second.”

Families have put their lives on hold now for weeks. “We’re getting used to the hotel life,” said Sadie Rioux.

Kristin Piccone, whose son Anthony is a pitcher/infielder/outfielder, is a real estate agent. She’s been doing her job by phone lately. She closed on a house last Friday, put one under contract earlier this week.

“This is all different for us,” she said. “We’ve embraced a lot of things, a lot of things we’ve never done. But we’re all here with our baseball family.”

But they wouldn’t be anywhere else.

“Every time (Anthony) takes the field in that uniform, it’s overwhelming,” Piccone said. “It makes me speechless. I’m very grateful they have come this far.”

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