Fans back home proud of Little Leaguers' effort

2011-08-27T14:21:00Z 2011-08-27T22:30:11Z Fans back home proud of Little Leaguers' effortGazette Staff The Billings Gazette
August 27, 2011 2:21 pm  • 

In the midst of a packed Montana State University Billings Petro Theatre at the end of the Little League World Series championship game Saturday, it was hard to tell that the Big Sky All-Stars fell to California 11-2. 

It was hard to tell much of anything through the roar of the crowd.

Proud of the effort put forth by the Billings-based team, fans, friends and family crowded together in different parts of town to watch something that has never been done — a Montana Little League team playing in the World Series, let alone being one game away from the championship.

“I think they are ready to come home, but they had a great time,” said Joseph Zimmer, 15, brother of Big Sky pitcher Patrick Zimmer. “You can’t complain about" their performance.

At Buffalo Wild Wings on the West End, several fans and co-workers of the Little League players' parents were cheering hard — just as they have during each game since the team played for the regional title in California.

Chandee Roberg works with two of the Little League players' parents at General Electric — the parents of Cole McKenzie and Connor Kieckbusch.

"I didn't even watch baseball before this," Roberg said.

Roberg and her fellow coworkers have kept in contact with the team during their absence.

"They are ready to sleep in their own bed," Roberg said. "But it’s unbelievable for them."

Buffalo Wild Wings' general manager, Kristi Yates, said 10 percent of the restaurant's sales on each game day will go to the Big Sky Little League travel fund. They started the fundraiser for Wednesday's game.

"We were full on Wednesday and have been full since we opened this morning," Yates said. "We had quite a few come in early today just to get a seat."

Shaun Biggerstaff, another coworker, said the players' flights were already canceled due to Hurricane Irene. They were supposed to fly out Monday.

"They already have enough to worry about with the game going on and whatnot," Biggerstaff said. "They were saying they would have to drive someplace else to catch a flight home."

Zimmer wasn’t sure about his family — some of the backup airports they had hoped to fly out of have already started to postpone flights.

Rep. Denny Rehberg was at the game in South Williamsport, Pa., cheering on the players along with his family, while Sen. Jon Tester was seated in the crowd at Petro Theatre.

“They are playing a great game on a world stage,” Tester said. “It’s very impressive. These guys are not going to give up until the game is over.”

And they didn’t. McKenzie hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, scoring the team's final run.

With every play — whether a home run, base hit or walk — the crowd was there in support.


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