Players reunite to remember historic run

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Little League national champions hold 10-year reunion

Ten years on, the specifics of their historical Little League title run are a little hazy for some of the participants.

The games mostly come back in flashes: falling behind to North Regina in an elimination game at provincials, stunning Walley, the defending champions form B.C. at nationals, becoming the first Saskatchewan team to win a game at the Little League World Series.

No, when the 2004 Moose Jaw Little League Junior All-Stars got together for a 10-year reunion this weekend, what they really remembered was each other.

"There was a special bond with the boys I think," said Joel Kot who played on the 2004 team. "We all came together that summer. We didn't know a few of the guys to begin with, but we definitely came together and had good team chemistry. I think that's what got us through it all."

That Junior All-Star team came from behind to win the provincial title. They went unbeaten at the Prairie regional and battled back from a 1-2 record at nationals to earn a trip to the Little League Junior World Series in Taylor, Mich. After winning nationals, the players went straight to the World Series. They were away from home for three straight weeks during their run.

"After you spend a whole summer together it's tough not to still have that bond," said former All-Star David Slack. "I remember just taking it game by game. We didn't think we had the best team out there or anything like that. We went out and had fun. We kept winning games. We didn't think we'd get to the next point and then we would move on, then we didn't think we would move on and we did again all the way to the Worlds."

When they returned to Moose Jaw, there was a rally at Ross Wells Park that followed a short parade down Main Street. The players watched video from that rally Saturday night during their banquet.

"It's crazy how much the guys have changed over the years. It's funny to look back. There are a lot of memories," said Kot.

The players were 13 and 14 years old, while their coaches — Kevin Meacher, Cody Murdock and Mark Gould — were each 20 at the time. They became the youngest coaches in Little League World Series history and the youngest to ever win a game.

"Baseball is a hard game to have success at and we were pretty fortunate to have the success we did 10 years ago," said Meacher who said what he remembered the most about that team was how much fun they were to coach. "We spent a lot of time practicing and playing the games and the biggest memory for me is that we had a lot of fun, all of the time, with the guys."

Players, coaches and some of the parents divided into two teams to play a baseball game at Ross Wells Park Saturday afternoon. It was fitting for a team that relied on the dramatic 10 years ago, that their friendly game ended up going extra innings. Meacher's team prevailed 10-9 in the 10th inning.

Beyond a nice meal and a chance to get back on the diamond, the reunion really allowed the players to reconnect and recall that summer.

"I haven't hung out with all of these guys in quite awhile," said Bryce Warner, who provided some clutch hitting during their run to the national title. "It's good to just hang out with them again. A few of them I see, but for lots of them it's been too long.

"We sat around and talked about 10 years ago and it was pretty funny. There's actually a lot of things you don't remember, but when you get a huge group together they remember different things. My best memories aren't even the baseball, it's just my teammates and hanging out."

Most of the players on the team played midget AAA baseball in Moose Jaw. Jon Cotter and Dustin Caplette went on to play NCAA Division II baseball at the University of Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist University respectively. 

"We were pretty fortunate to have two guys go on as far as they did. Dustin and Jon had long, successful baseball careers. For some of these other guys today was the first time they've swung a bat in awhile," said Meacher.

Some excelled in other sports. Kot played in 85 regular season games and seven playoff games with the Red Deer Rebels in the Western Hockey League before a back injury caused him to miss a year of action. He was able to resurrect his junior career and played one season of CIS hockey at the University of Regina.

Some of the players still play senior men's baseball. In fact Meacher and Slack play on the same team in the Qu'Appelle Valley League.

Some have excelled away from the ball park. Bryce Warner is finishing his masters in microbiology and immunology at the University of Saskatchewan. He looking to go on and pursue his Ph.D.

"Ten years later you still kind of remember most of them as they were when they were 14, but now you see them all grown up as young men and you see their successes. Some guys are married, I think there's some kids on the way. It's pretty exciting to see where everyone has gone," said Meacher.

Please click here to see more on the All-Stars historic run from 2004.

Organizations: Little League, Moose Jaw Little League Junior All-Stars, NCAA University of Central Missouri and Southwest Baptist University Western Hockey League University of Regina Qu'Appelle Valley League University of Saskatchewan

Geographic location: North Regina, Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw Ross Wells Park Taylor, Mich.

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