Between setting records and meeting major league players, the Holbrook 12U Little League team had a weekend to remember at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
First, on Aug. 19, in a game that was televised nationally on ABC, Holbrook erupted to score a 15-5 victory over Grosse Point Woods-Shore of Michigan in Williamsport. According to ESPN, Holbrook scored the most runs by a New Jersey-based team in the Little League World Series.
Holbrook opened the World Series with a 7-6 loss to Fairfield American of Connecticut on Aug. 17. Holbrook needed to win the game on Aug. 19 to continue in the champions bracket. A defeat would have knocked Holbrook out of the tournament.
Holbrook manager Rob Grano was proud of his team’s performance and hopes that it will be a jumping point going forward.
“I was really happy,” Grano said. “That’s how we should always play. Our defense hasn’t been good lately, but they were able to pick it up in the later half of the game.”
Grano stated that despite feeling great heading into competition this week, he knows the team still has a difficult road ahead of it.
“It’s tough,” Grano said. “All of these teams are terrific. I mean the North Carolina team just became the first team to throw back-to-back no hitters. I still feel good though. It’s hard for other teams to consistently get the best of our bats. The way I look at it, if we could just get to Thursday (Aug. 24), that would be amazing.”
With the victory, the Jackson team moved on to play the West champion, Rancho Santa Margarita, California, on Aug. 21.
Another victory in that game by Holbrook would have sent it to the next round on Aug. 22. Another loss would have eliminated Holbrook.
The team from Jackson also had a memorable day on Aug. 20, when it got to spend a good portion of the day with Major League Baseball’s Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
The Pirates and Cardinals were in town to play in the MLB Little League Classic that was held at Bowman Field, a minor league stadium that opened in 1926 in Williamsport.
“It was unbelievable,” Grano said. “We were one of the few teams that got to pick the teams up from the airport. My son got to sit right next to [Pirates outfielder] Andrew McCutchen on the bus. McCutchen is such a great guy. He talked to my son as if it was just you and me talking. I even showed him a video of him making a catch the other day, and he complimented him and gave pointers to him. Like how cool is that? [The Pirates’] Jon Jay was such a great guy too. They made a bunch of new fans today.”
The team also sat behind the Pirates’ dugout when they played against the Cardinals on ESPN on the evening of Aug. 20. The Pirates won the game, 6-3.
“They were having a blast all day,” Grano said. “They’ve been busy all day too. They’ve signed probably 50-60 autographs and taken hundreds of pictures. This is one of the reasons why people hype this event up so much, because it is one of the best experiences you can possibly have.”
Grano was excited for the opportunity, stating that the experience has motivated his team.
“This is something these kids will never forget,” Grano said. “I think it’s gotten them fired up to keep this thing going.”