Monday, August 25, 2008

Victory lap for Waipahu Little Leaguers?

The Little League World Series ended yesterday, with Waipahu, Hawaii drubbing Mexico for the title. Now for the less appreciated part of the experience for these kids: their new-found celebrity.

For the next year, they'll be taking a victory lap, if they choose to. That was the case with the 2007 champs from Warner Robins, Georgia. About six months ago, I checked in with the parents from Warner Robins for an article in the Sports Business Journal. (Of course, I had to go through their sports marketing agents first.)

Nice people though. In the first week after the World Series, all 12 players were guests on “Good Morning America.” Dalton Carriker, the seventh-grader who hit a walk-off home run to win the championship game, appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman” where he bantered about his clutch hit. (“With the count 2-1, I wasn’t thinking he would throw me a curveball …”)

Things heated up after that, with the Warner Robins kids attending a shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center, flying in an Air Force plane, taking batting practice with the Atlanta Braves, and being introduced before Atlanta Falcons and University of Georgia football games. Oh, in November they dropped in at the White House for a visit with George Bush.

Two invitations got thumbs-down: An offer for the boys to be introduced at a pro wrestling event and an overture from a Hawaiian surf shop for the players to fly with their families to Hawaii for an unofficial rematch with the Tokyo team they beat in the final.

The league president told me, “That was pretty strange.”

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