Champions Both On and Off the Field
Salisbury, NC, was put on the national stage this summer by a group of talented young girls who won the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon. Once the team arrived in Portland, not only did they make a statement on the field, but off as well, showing love and compassion by taking up money to purchase book bags for a team from Uganda whose luggage was lost in flight. With so much excitement back home, even the elderly admitted staying up past bedtime to watch the final two games on ESPN.
Although the team from Salisbury known as RoCo (Salisbury’s in Rowan County) was not given much of a chance to win, heart and determination changed the outcome of that prediction. Honored with parades, banners, newspaper articles and recognition after arriving home the girls were proud how they brought the local community together. Even leaders and officials such as Greg Edds, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, commended the team. Some said this was the greatest accomplishment Salisbury (Rowan County) had ever seen.
I had the opportunity to speak with several of the grandmothers a few days after the team arrived home. I saw Judy Safley, Kaylin Dowling’s grandmother at a local restaurant known as Mario’s Family Style Dinner. She was wearing a t-shirt with the names of the players on the back. As she came over to my table she had a big smile and proud as could be. She said what impressed her most about the whole experience was how well the girls played together as a team. When one player was down, or discouraged, the other players picked her up, encouraging her to “shake it off”. The girls didn’t play for personal gain, but for the “betterment” of the whole team. Later in the week, I saw Linda Hartsell, grandmother of Allison Ennis at the Cleveland Post Office. She also shared how excited everyone was and how proud. She even stopped a few friends coming out of the post office, saying, Have you heard?
Lucinda Wilhelm, the mother of Ellie Wilhelm, said life after the World Series has been surreal. The outpouring of love and support the community at large has shown all of the girls has been overwhelming. People we don’t know approach us with congratulations. Officials have thanked us for the manner in which we represented our hometown, our state, and our country. Our community has made my daughter and all of the girls feel like hometown heroes. As parents, we have admired their work ethic, display of sportsmanship and compassion on the field and off the field. We have admired how humble they remained throughout the journey that began in June. For others to be able to see this first hand and recognize it, is overwhelming, even indescribable. So, while it is great to be congratulated for a win, it is an even better feeling to be thanked for the way we act both off and on the field.
Dr. Steve Yang was happy to share recently some of his thoughts not only as a coach, but as a proud dad. His daughter, Ellen, was on the little league team. He said, Ellen is a 7th grader at Knox Middle School and during the welcome home parade, at least 15 Knox faculty were holding signs cheering for her along with every other player. It made me proud Ellen is a student at Knox Middle School. During the celebration at the park after the parade, multiple “young and future” softball players wanted pictures and autographs with the all-star players.
Only the beginning of accolades and recognition for the team, Dr. Yang and Ellen had a similar experience a few days later in the Verizon store. He said, “Every employee and almost every customer came up to us and congratulated us. My daughter said, “I don’t know any of these people.” I told her “it doesn’t matter, everyone knows you now!”
Members of the 2015 Little League World Series Team include Kaylin Dowling, Allison Ennis, Kary Hales, Caylie Keller, Caitlin Mann, Kali Morton, Taylor Sanborn, Megyn Spicer, Liza Simmerson, Jaden Vaughn, Taylor Walton, Ellie Wilhelm and Ellen Yang. Coaches were Dr. Steve Yang, Rob Hales and Eric Dowling.
Congratulations, RoCo Little League Softball World Series Champions. You may be young, but you have the maturity and grace of young ladies much older. The wisdom and poise you exhibited both off and on the field was a joy to behold. The answers you gave when microphones and cameras were thrown in your face made everyone proud. It’s obvious you have wonderful parents, grandparents and coaches who understand what it takes to make well-rounded players into champions. Way to go, RoCo! Can’t wait until next year.
Do you have any stories or comments to share about this awesome team? Leave a comment below, message on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.