Members of the Cumberland American team are greeted by family and friends as they arrive at Diamond Hill Park from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. on Friday afternoon. (Photo by Ernest A. Brown)
CUMBERLAND — It was a victory celebration befitting a team that went on a wild ride. The Cumberland American Little League players and coaches, a group bursting at the seams with storylines, returned home Friday night after spending the past three-and-a-half weeks away from home. Several hundred adoring fans turned out at Diamond Hill Park to welcome back a special group that did their hometown proud.
Dave Belisle, the chief architect of this great run and the manager who triggered all kinds of media attention in wake of his stirring postgame address to his players following the final game of the summer, spoke last. His address lasted just over 10 minutes and saw the much-in-demand coach thank everyone who helped Cumberland American take its show to a national stage that few imagined when the team convened for first time back in mid-June at humble Garvin Field.
Belisle started by thanking the league’s many organizers and volunteers. He singled out his father, longtime Mount St. Charles head coach Bill Belisle, who got out of his chair and flashed two thumbs up.
“You taught me everything I know about love and passion and I want to thank you for that,” said Belisle as he looked over to where Bill was sitting.
A special shout-out was also given to Belisle’s wife Nancy, who is battling cancer.
“There’s a fighter right there,” Belisle stated. “She’s a special woman.”
Belisle also paid homage to his assistant coaches – and friends – Matt Wright and Bill Davock.
“I do not stand here without the two gentlemen who traveled this road with me. I know that everyone has been giving me a lot of attention. I don’t like the attention, but you know what? I’ll take it on if I’m going to give these guys the credit they deserve,” Belisle said before urging Wright and Davock to take a bow. “I’m a hockey guy who’s been taught by a couple of great baseball guys. They deserve just as much credit.”
Belisle then turned his attention to the real reason why the crowd was gathered, draped in orange and black, the colors of Cumberland American’s uniforms at the LLWS. As someone who has coached for 35 years, he has plenty of memories to pick and choose from. This year, he was entrusted with what he says is a special group of youngsters.
“Some of us are going to school next Monday and I feel like we just started,” Belisle said. “The feelings that I have are never going to end … it’s going to last forever. We’ve only taken one day off since June 12 and that’s absolutely amazing.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03
For full story and photos, see Saturday's print edition of The Call.
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