The team from Urbandale opens up play in the Little League World Series tonight (Friday) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The team won the Midwest Region by beating a team from Minnesota to advance. Urbandale Little League board president, Tony Perez, says he’s been busy answering calls from the media and others since that game.
“People reaching out that were alumni, former coaches, players, board members…even people who had moved out of here, reaching out to wish them the best of luck, tell them how proud they are, that they had their support from miles apart across the map,” Perez says. The team starts out at the local level and then advances onto state where if they win they are representing all the teams from Iowa in regional play.
Perez says the support expands even more once they take home that regional banner. “Now with going to the World Series, you’re known as the Midwest Region, not just Urbandale, Iowa, or Iowa,” Perez explains. He says people from all over have contacted him.
“Everybody in the state of Iowa now becomes Midwest Region fans, whether it be our harsh rivals from across town or across the state.” Urbandale made its first trip to the Little League World Series in 2009, after having several teams advance to the regional level and a team in the Senior League won that series.
Perez says the success has validated Urbandale’s decision to keep playing Little League — which allows all players to participate — while other leagues have sprung up that are often limited to only the best players. “I don’t know that it necessarily helps us out numbers out that we increase yearly just because of the success of this team. We won’t be able to gauge that until next season, however I do think it helps us maintain our better players in the league and keep them doing this,” according to Perez.
“We try to serve this league as both social and competitive and find a fine balance where every kid has a chance to play — no kid goes without playing…another thing this serves a purpose as, it’s kind of a social thing for the parents and individuals in the community.”
Perez says one of the things that has propelled this team forward is the passion for the game that the players have. “What we have noticed here is obviously their pitching has come through when needed. I think they have been a little deeper with arms than what we’ve seen in a couple of years,” Perez explains.
“But honestly, we’ve had several teams that could have potentially been there and it takes a little luck along the way. Fortunately they are able to do this and go out there and represent us to the best of their ability. All we care is that the kids are having fun, going out there and making some life memories, and being able to come back and share this with the community.”
The Urbandale team will wear orange uniforms and play a team from Newark, Delaware representing the Mid-Atlantic region at seven o’clock tonight on ESPN.