By Joyce Erekson
The Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Stars returned home to a heroes’ welcome Sunday after playing in the Babe Ruth World Series last week in Williston, North Dakota.
A crowd of about 100 people gathered at Bowzer Complex Sunday afternoon to welcome home the team, which saw its bid for a national championship fall just short with a loss to Eau Claire, Wisconsin in the quarterfinals.
The players and their coaches, who began their march towards the World Series back in June, received a police and fire escort through the city before finally stopping in front of the Babe Ruth fields on O’Callahan Way where their fans cheered them on as they stepped off the bus.
Manager Leon Elwell said the support the team received from the people of Lynn, the businesses and the many folks who contributed to the fundraising efforts, was incredible.
“I want to thank all the people who helped us get there,” Elwell said. “I love the city of Lynn. It’s a great city. The people always get behind their sports teams. Lynn always pulls through.”
Elwell said the first few days in Williston were a bit overwhelming with all the running around, but the way the tournament was run was “first class all around.”
“I was really happy my kids got to experience this,’ he said. “It’s a once in ali fetime opportunity for the kids. I told them to save every bit of memorabilia.”
Lynn won two games in pool play to advance to the quarterfinals where they faced the team from Wisconsin. The loss was particularly tough not just because it ended the season, but also because of a play early in the game. Pitcher Christian Burt , in fielding a bunt with two outs in the second inning, opted to tag the runner going to first rather than throw to the bag.. The runner ran into Burt and Burt injured his shoulder on the play. The runner was called out, but Burt was unable to continue pitching and the Lynn team saw a 5-2 lead end in a 7-6 loss.
“If they didn’t play their best when we were here that one thing, but they did play their best. They gave it their all. They were respectful. They were gentlemen and they acted the way they were supposed to act,’ Elwell said.
After five or six months of living baseball, the returning all-stars now have to switch gears and get ready to return to school. For some that means jumping right into practice for a fall sport. The players are scattered among five different high schools (Classical, English, St. Mary’s, Essex Tech and Swampscott High).
The success of this year’sl 15-year old all-star team has Elwell and Greater Lynn Babe Ruth president Jim Beliveau hoping to see players who might be tempted to play baseball elsewhere give Babe Ruth another look.
“These kids are like rock stars,” Beliveau said, adding that he plans to the program next year.
Beliveau said it was a long, busy Babe Ruth season, not only because the 15s went so far, but also because GLBR served as host to the New England Regionals.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Beliveau said.
For Elwell (a Lynn firefighter) and the other coaches who had sons on the team, the ride held a little added meaning.
“To get to coach in the World Series is special. To do it with your son on the team is really special,” Elwell said. “It’s something I’ll never forget.”