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Party takes little leaguers full circle

by: Vern Uyetake, 
Members of the Lake Oswego Little League team arrive at their party in Westlake Park on a Lake Oswego Fire Department engine.

It ended in the exact place it began for the Lake Oswego Little League team that had the eyes of the state on it during a two-week period in Williamsport, Pa.

Westlake Park, which played host to many of the 12-year-olds' in-state games, was the site of a large welcome back party for the little leaguers, who had been away from home for nearly a month.

It was a fitting celebration for the team. The 12 members of the team that advanced to the U.S. semifinals rode in on a fire truck, waving to the nearly 250 fans and well-wishers who had gathered to see them Aug. 29.

Manager Craig Ramey introduced each player and then took a moment to thank everyone who had gathered on the hot afternoon.

'This was an awesome experience for the players, coaches and everyone involved. It really comes back to this field and this Little League organization,' Ramey said.

After the introductions, the players sat at four tables as hundreds of attendees lined up with posters and baseballs to be autographed.

'This is the end of my 15 minutes of fame. I have to soak it up,' coach Kevin Campbell said with a smile.

It is something that the players have gotten used to over the past few weeks as the media coverage of the Little League World Series turned this group of ballplayers into celebrities.

But on the afternoon of Aug. 29, the team got its first opportunity to receive support first-hand from the home community.

The majority of those who lined up to talk to the players and receive autographs were children, some of whom were friends of the players and others who had watched its games on television.

But there were also a few older fans who wanted to take the opportunity to let each player know how much they meant to the city of Lake Oswego.

'I was on a flight from Portland to Denver and each seat had an individual television. I knew that Lake Oswego was playing and, as I looked around, about half of the people were watching them at 40,000 feet,' said Bob LeFeber who was in attendance with his son Sam.

'It was really good baseball. It's amazing what they can do,' LeFeber said.

It took close to an hour for the line of autograph seekers to reach every athlete. In the meantime, free pizza and ice cream were provided by Flying Pie Pizzeria and Coldstone Ice Creamery.

The team had less than a week to relax and catch up on sleep before starting school and many of the players found themselves right back on the field again.

Seven of the 12 little leaguers also compete in football and practices are already under way for the upcoming season. Ramey and Campbell also coach one of those football teams, which features five players from their baseball squad.

But, on this Wednesday, everyone was able to bask in the sun of Lake Oswego's accomplishment one more time.