Next to the sight of Dalton Carriker rounding the bases after his game-winning home run, its the most iconic and enduring moment from the 2007 Little League World Series. There stood little Kendall Scott -- all of 12 years old -- offering consolation to a vanquished Japanese opponent in language both human and universal: a hug.
Within moments of Carrikers heroics, the entire WRALL team followed Scotts lead. It was an amazing example of compassion and maturity. They already seemed so grown up. Now, they really are.
The bulk of that squad graduates high school this week. Clint Wynn finished high school last year and Hunt Smith is a member of the Class of 2014. But the rest -- Taylor Lay, David Umphreyville, Nick Martens, Zane Conlon, Micah Wells, Payton Purvis, Hunter Jackson, Keaton Allen, Scott and Carriker -- walk this weekend.
A few drifted away from baseball -- Lay and Purvis made their marks on high school gridirons -- but all retained a love of competition. Most will have the opportunity to participate in athletics in college.
Even more impressive is the way the team dealt with the rock star popularity it earned from that magical run. Daily exposure in The Telegraph. A visit with President George W. Bush. Interviews conducted with Erin Andrews.
Thats heady stuff for anyone, let alone a bunch of middle school kids. Credit their friends, prep coaches, church environments and, most importantly, their parents for keeping them grounded.
Not that these kids havent faced tough challenges, on the field and off.
Allen pitched for Veterans against FPD at Turner Field on April 13. Within days, he was having his appendix removed, which forced him to miss the rest of the Warhawks remarkable 27-win season.
Scott lost a baseball scholarship after blowing out his elbow while pitching in a region game for Northside against rival Houston County. (ABAC stepped up with a leadership scholarship and will hold a spot on the roster while Scott recovers from Tommy John surgery performed recently my famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews.)
Carrikers father Trent has been undergoing cancer treatment since February; essentially all of Daltons senior baseball season.
Overnight celebrity often sows the seeds of self-destructive behavior. So far so good with this crew. For their sake, we pray theyll continue to make good choices as they experience more independence. We know that, as a group, theyll continue to make us proud.
Contact Chris Deighan at firstname.lastname@example.org.