DOWN MEMORY LANE – 2004 HORSHAM LITTLE LEAGUE’S CHALLENGER DIVISION
Working with Mr. Jim Fergusion of Little League Baseball, Inc. in early 2004, Pennsylvania District 22 was able to select a Challenger Team from within it’s District boundaries to participate in the 2004 Little League World Series pre-game celebrations. Prior to 2004 all Challenger Teams selected for this honor were from the Williamsport area. 2004 was the first year teams living outside the traditional area were selected; a team from Canton, Ohio and our very own Horsham Little League Challenger Team were honored.
OUR TRIP TO WILLIAMSPORTIt all began in the spring of 2004 when our District Administrator notified the Horsham Little League Challenger Division that we were invited to play a game at the Howard J. Lamande Stadium in Williamsport, PA on August 29th 2004.
The coaches made an announcement to our team and their families of the news. We explained that Little League began its Challenger Division in 1989. Since 2001, the Little League World Series has hosted a Challenger game on the day of the World Championship. Everyone was thrilled. With the help of the Horsham Little League, Horsham Rotary, my coaching staff and organizer Carl Morham we were on our way.
Preparations were made to meet in a Horsham location to take a three hour bus ride to Williamsport, PA. The weather was not the best that morning. As we exited the Lehigh Tunnel it got worse, dark and cloudy. Our dreams of playing a game at Howard J. Lampade Stadium looked remarkably slim at best.
The bus rolled down Rt 80 on our approach to Williamsport. Excitement grew throughout the bus as we entered the city. To our amazement the sun began to shine, the players began to chant and the coaches and families felt a sign of relief.
The Challenger team bus pulled into the stadium parking area, we were met by Little League World Series Officials. And from that minute forward my Challenger ballplayers were given the red carpet treatment. The heat and humidity was unbearable as we climbed the hill to the staging area which had plenty of shade. At this point the players were given gifts, entertained, picture shoot and prepared for the big game.
With much anticipation the Challenger teams and coaches were escorted to the stadium field ready to play our first Little League World Series Challenger Division game. The field was magnificently manicured, the crowd was cheering and both Challenger teams were prepared. The Challenger game began and our team came out swinging. One coach replied “where did we learn how to hit like that”. "This atmosphere created by Little League has brought the best out of our players” I replied. The coach replied “then we need to do this every year".
The game ended, our Horsham Litte Challenger Division ballplayers were pleased with their performance. As the awards ceremony was about to begin each and every corner of the stadium echoed excitement toward the Challenger player outstanding achievements. One by one the players received their World Series medals. The crowd began to roar, medals glimmered, players shined, and coaches beamed as teammates, friends and family members exchanged words of congratulations.
As the evening began to wine down we watched the Little League World Series live, shared our experiences of the day and prepared for our trip back to Horsham, PA. Exhausted I sat in my bus seat thinking what a “lifetime of memories”. I am so proud of our special players and to be part of the Horsham Little League experience.