For the fifth time, and first since 2010, the West Side Little League All-Stars from Hamilton advanced to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
The team’s success has brought national attention to the Butler County seat since the Great Lakes Region and LLWS games are shown on ESPN.
After the Hamilton team finished second in the regional last week and advanced to this week’s double-elimination LLWS, the city had planned a “very special” send-off, said Mayor Pat Moeller. But due to concerns with COVID, the team boarded a charter bus Sunday morning from Whitestown, Ind. after its regional final loss and headed to Pennsylvania.
Moeller said the team is the “talk of the whole town” and “full of ambassadors.”
When Moeller was asked what it’s like being a mayor of a city in the LLWS, he laughed.
"They are the mayors right now,” he said, adding he plans to send the team more Hamilton bottled water. “They make us all so proud. It’s exciting for the entire city, the whole region.”
Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said his father, Bill Smith, was a two-time college All American in football at University of Northern Iowa, and signed a NFL contract with the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.
However, his father often said his “biggest sporting regret” was striking out with a runner on third for the final out that kept his Little League team from advancing to the World Series.
“Regardless of the outcome, no one can take away this proud memory for the rest of their lives,” he said of the West Side team.
Hamilton opens the tournament at 3 p.m. Thursday against Tennessee. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
Since there are no international teams competing in the LLWS this year due to COVID protocols, the series will include 16 U.S. teams of 12-year-old All-Stars.
The top two teams in all eight regions advanced to the World Series, so even though Hamilton lost 9-1 Saturday to Michigan in the Great Lakes Regional it qualified.
The West Side team has won 20 state titles and advanced to the LLWS five times, 1991, 1993, 2007, 2010 and this year.
Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Dan Bates said when the West Side wins “it’s great for the whole community. People pump out their chests and are proud of these kids. Anytime Hamilton is on the map for something positive, it’s great. I’m sure the players love what they’re doing and their intent is not to promote the city, but they’re doing such a great job of it.”
Ali Saylor, whose son, Gavin, is an outfielder, third baseman and pitcher, said it was rewarding to see all of the team’s “hard work, blood, sweat and tears” get paid off with a trip to the LLWS.
"It’s very exciting,” said Saylor, who returned to Hamilton after watching the regionals before leaving Wednesday for the LLWS. “It’s definitely emotional. We’re more nervous than the players are.”
Josh Davidson is president of the West Side Little League and his son, Noah, is the starting catcher and pitcher. He said the team is “very prideful of the city” and that culture is discussed early every season.
“We preach to them about how to represent the city since they have that ‘H’ on their hat,” he said. “We are sharing the message what Hamilton is about.”
HOW TO WATCH
WHAT: Little League World Series
WHERE: South Williamsport, Pa.
FIRST ROUND GAME: Hamilton, Ohio vs. Tennessee, 3 p.m. Thursday, ESPN
SECOND ROUND GAME: If Hamilton wins, plays winner of New Hampshire vs. California at 9 a.m. Sunday, ESPN. If Hamilton loses, plays loser of New Hampshire vs California, 1 p.m. Saturday, ESPN.