To say that the KAU Kings Senior Little League team brought honor, joy and excitement to their home town is probably a gross understatement. Coming home from Bangor, Maine, from the final game of the World Series with runner-up honors is something that Kennett has seen the likes of from its athletes on only a few (but memorable) occasions.
What these high school boys did was show they were the best young baseball players in the nation and almost in the world. Each of them will likely place the games last week at the top of their lifelong experiences -- even when they have lived their lives out and their hair is gray.
It was obvious also that the community felt the high as well, as residents lined the street and cheered them on as they got off the bus on Saturday evening.
There are many elements that led to the success of this team at the international level. First and foremost is their skill.
They obviously had attained a high level of fitness with sound training. They also had a deep and lightning sharp mental sharpness that enabled them to pull off the right plays at the right time.
According to friends and relatives close to them, the teamís prowess didnít pop up over night. These kids were together since they were 9 years old, and had coaches who were immersed in the game, yet kind and supportive.
But thereís more.
They live in a region that has deep roots in baseball. The Little League system is strong, and the fields are quite accommodating. Men and women of all ages turn out by the hundreds to attend the annual Old Timers Banquet at the Kennett Fire Company Red Clay Room every January because they love baseball.
Burtonís Barbershop on State Street in Kennett Square is a virtual museum to the Phillies and baseball at all levels. Owner Bob Burton has played host to the likes of Dallas Green and Curt Schilling and can recount stories from the past when Hall of Famers Herb Pennock, Eddie Collins and Babe Ruth paid visits. His walls are lined with photos, autographs and memorabilia not only from the likes of Rich Ashburn and Robin Roberts, but from local youth teams from half a century or more ago.
Probably the more important factor in their success is the time, love, money and effort given by parents.
For every kid who is good in sports, there are parents who make sacrifices to send the child to camp, buy equipment, give encouragement and haul the players back and forth to games and practices.
They cheer them when they win and buoy them up when they lose.
Ask any player and he or she will say parents are their strongest boosters.
All this was not lost on coach Mike Pechin, himself the parent of a player on this amazing team.
He told them that the lesson to be learned is that those who came before them have given their support. It is up to these young athletes to remember what was done for them and return the favor by giving to their own children.
It was wise advice. If these young boys of summer have the strength and integrity they showed last week, itís a good guess they will follow their coachís advise years from now.