Hope springs eternal in Greenville this day as a group of young boys heads to Williamsport to play. The North State All Stars, there are 13 in all, carry with them more than the pride and joy of the families and friends but a tradition of baseball and community that reaches back decades.
The boys’ names are Carson Hardee, Bryce Jackson, Ashton Byars, Joseph Byrne, Will Casey, Cameron Greenway, Jacob Calder, Cash Daniels-Moye, Matthew Matthijs, Chase Anderson, Luke Lambert, Thomas Barrett and Drew Fields. According to the Little Leagues website, they are all 12 years old.
Their journey began in April, when school was still in, with games nightly except Sunday through mid June. On their individual squads they vied for the city championship at Elm Street Park, then were chosen for their outstanding play to the all star team, which since July has competed in the District 4 tournament in Morehead City, the State Tournament in Morganton and the Southeast Regional in Warner Robins, Ga.
It was in the last tournament, featuring all star teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia as well as our hometown boys, that North State propelled themselves to the hallowed ground in Pennsylvania.
Little League Baseball, the largest youth sports organization in the world, got its start in Williamsport and is headquartered there, according to the league. It has grown from three teams in 1939 to nearly 200,000 teams in all 50 U.S. states and more than 80 countries.
The Little League World Series is contested by 16 teams, according to ESPN, eight winners of the U.S. regional tournaments and eight international champions. The U.S. and international brackets will be divided into two pools that play double elimination tournaments. The winner of each pool goes on to a single-elimination championship game. The U.S. and international champions then compete for the World Series title.
Each team plays at least three games, ESPN says. Greenville headed to Williamsport on Saturday for practice, and their first game is Friday against the Midwest Region champion from Sioux Falls, S.D., which defeated the team from Webb City, Mo., on Saturday.
No matter what the outcome, the games will give local fans a lot to cheer about. The Greenville baseball tradition will play out on a national stage, and audiences from coast to coast will once again learn about our town through one of its teams. The community has built many fine youth athletic programs — not to mention some good ones at the college-level. The success of the Little Leagues has set the bar.
The North State and Tar Heel all star teams have now won 12 state championships since the organization was established in 1951, and the Tar Heel All Stars played in the World Series in 1998. According to Little League Baseball, only three other teams from North Carolina have made it this far: Morresville went in 1952, Southwest Forsyth in 2001 and Morganton in 2004.
Ties to the sport in Greenville go back generations, and decades of support from families and friends will be behind North State as they make their run. As Thayer once wrote, the sun in Greenville is shining bright, the band is playing, and hearts are light. Win or lose in Williamsport, North State has done its city right.
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