Cumberland American coach Dave Belisle gives him team a thumbs up during practice on Saturday. (Photo by Ernest A. Brown)
CUMBERLAND — Dave Belisle is no longer Cumberland American’s manager. He is America’s manager.
The winners of the 2014 Little League World Series have yet to be entered into the history books, but chances are that the enduring moment from this year’s tournament has already been authored. The outpouring of passion Monday night during Belisle’s postgame speech to the Cumberland players, broadcast to millions with ESPN’s cameras rolling, is the runaway favorite.
“It was pretty moving and touching and says a lot about what Dave is all about. It’s not a speech that’s made up. When Dave talks, it comes from the heart,” said John Shevlin, president of the Cumberland Youth Baseball/Softball League. “He’s got great a relationship with these kids and relates to them beautifully. That showed on national television.”
“You also have to include the speech from Saturday night prior to the bottom of the sixth inning against Tennessee. Everyone thought the game was over, but Dave said the right words, Shevlin continued. “He got those kids so pumped up that they fought right back. That was amazing.”
Belisle’s three-minute message to his team went viral on Tuesday, becoming one of the day’s top trending topics on social networks, and garnering coverage from news outlets around the world.
“I’ve been getting emails from people out of state just saying this is what Little League is supposed to be about,” said Shevlin, who was in Williamsport, Pa. as Belisle’s Boys of Summer took the sport’s crowning event by storm. “All day, I’ve been getting phone calls from Diane Sawyer’s office, Fox & Friends, WBZ (radio) up in Boston and sportscasters down in Washington, D.C.
“They all want to talk to Dave about his speech.”
One caller told Shevlin that upon watching the manager console and inspire his heartbroken players, he sat there and cried for 15 minutes.
“I’ve told people that his cell phone mail box is full, but I’ve reached out to the (Cumberland American) assistant coaches to let them know that Dave is in demand,” Shevlin said.
According to ESPN Front Row, it was an impromptu decision on the part of the network to air the speech, based on the suggestion of ESPN Senior Vice President, Production Mark Gross.
“Having David Belisle mic’d up has been a no-brainer. He is total class,” said Tom McNeeley, ESPN coordinating producer. “It was suggested by Mark Gross that we stay on Belisle and not rush off the air because we knew something special was happening.”
Those who have dealt with the coach before know he had no intention of creating a “made for TV” moment that would get the media buzzing.
“You see him in practice when no one’s there and he’s the same way with the kids,” Shevlin said. “Go back to a game in April. He’s got 12 kids that aren’t all all-stars, but he still treats them the same way. He’s a class act”
Belisle closed Monday night by telling his players, “You’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time – looooong time.”
As most Blackstone Valley sports followers are well aware, this is a career that includes numerous banners with Mount St. Charles hockey, as well as a prior turn shepherding a team of Cumberland youngsters to the Little League World Series.
“His hockey résumé speaks for itself, but he’s always said that Little League is his biggest passion, believe it or not. I believe it,” Shevlin said.
While much of the country is just getting to know Belisle, those in town are already bracing for life without the beloved mentor.
“Dave along with (Cumberland assistant coaches) Matt Wright and Bill Davock will all be missed because their kids are all out of Little League,” Shelvin said. “It’s too bad they’re leaving, but at the same, Cumberland is lucky to have guys who take the time to volunteer for the league. To send two teams to Williamsport in three years from a small town is not an easy thing to do.
“These are the types of guys that parents would do anything to have your kid play for any of them.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
For more, see Wednesday's print edition of The Call:
View more articles in: