It’s tough for a Little League team to win districts (once), mainly because each team in the district is formed with players from the small town, or hamlet, in which the 10- to 12-year-old children reside. Putting together a championship-level team isn’t easy. Winning it multiple times in a row and playing for state back-to-back is hard. What Council Rock 12U faced and accomplished was nearly impossible.
The team is based in Newtown, skippered by Doug Danese and assisted by Brian Wallace and Mike McNulty. The three coaches, though having decades of cumulative baseball experience, joined forces for the first time and filled coaching vacancies needed to bring the 12U team to the district tournament to defend their title.
There was only one problem; only seven players from the previous championship team had returned.
The coaches had to fill the remaining roster spots with no time to spare prior to the district tournament. They went into a scramble to find kids eligible based on tournament rules, had summer availability, and were willing to join a new team. For perspective, most district-caliber teams contain a roster that plays together year-round, for multiple years and are coached through it all by the same staff. This squad had barely any of that.
The recruited team was completed hurriedly with the new mix of leadership ready to start preparations, albeit almost requiring nametags at the first practice. “It made it both challenging and exciting in some ways, as it really was an all-star team of kids who haven’t played together,” states Coach Mike.
The coaches had to be innovative, having seasoned players at specific positions move around the diamond into new roles, all to improve the team. This was an ask each boy took on without batting an eye.
Only having a few weeks to practice, gel as a team, and prepare for the grueling tournament schedule was a task everyone involved was glad to take on and thankful to have as an opportunity. The players embarked on an experiential summer of high-quality baseball, the creation of lifelong memories, and something to be grateful for at every turn.
"I've coached a lot of teams, and this was the most fun experience I've had," says Coach Brian. "I felt confident in the whole team's ability to come together and play well."
The young gentlemen and skilled athletes kept the winning reputation by reprising both the district championship and the sectional title, sending them back to the state championships. “All of the players contributed, every single one from the top to the bottom of the lineup,” says Coach Mike.
Advancing meant the players, coaches and parents all had to extend commitments. These sacrifices spanned cutting-short or canceling summer vacations, including one family's planned trip to Germany, and parents needing to take extra time off from their jobs. Extended travel and play enabled the boys to continue to bond, and have fun as a group on and off the field while moving closer to their goal.
Though the team didn't win the state title, the tournament season was nothing short of a success. “The kids learned the lesson of how to handle losing gracefully,” explains Coach Mike.
The coaches say they firmly believe the kids truly appreciated the opportunity to compete as far as they did, ingesting an experience not afforded to most Little Leaguers. “The kids got a sense that hard work and commitment was needed to be successful, and it doesn’t come easy," says Coach Mike.
The state championship went to a team from Media, who then won regionals representing the Mid-Atlantic on the ESPN-televised Little League World Series. Media won a game on the national stage before falling short of the series title. It proved further the makeshift team from Council Rock Newtown was competing in good company, and made for a great time as the boys of summer.
“Everyone realized what an accomplishment it was for the kids to get to the state tournament again, and we were all very proud of the team.” ~Coach Mike