WARNER ROBINS -- Winning doesn’t get old. The celebrations just get bigger.
Fresh off a second consecutive Little League Softball World Series, the champions of Warner Robins American arrived at their home field Friday evening to find hundreds of fans -- as well as a live band, dancing cows, fireworks, ice cream trucks, water jets and other well-meaning absurdities not normally associated with softball.
Like any good victory party, it was a little odd and a lot entertaining.
The bus bearing the team rolled down Snellgrove Drive, and through the towering spray from firetruck water cannons, shortly after 7 p.m. By that time, every politician within driving distance -- including the team’s highest profile fan, Gov. Sonny Perdue -- had joined the crowd whose cars filled the lot at Flint Energies Sports Complex.
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As each player disembarked and was introduced, they got a pat on the shoulder from Perdue. Diminutive second baseman Sierra Stella -- a bit of a cut-up like her father and manager, Roger -- burst into a huge grin when Perdue lifted her high so the crowd could see her.
Avery Lamb, who allowed just three hits and no runs in three starts in the World Series, needed a bit of help up to the stage. She injured her knee on a play in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s championship game, and was walking with the aid of crutches.
Warner Robins City Councilman John Williams eagerly leapt to the microphone when fellow Councilman Tom Simms Jr. was a bit slow making his way to the stage from the back of the crowd. Williams was among the city officials who met the team at the airport late Thursday night.
“I had the distinct honor of the pushing our distinguished pitcher, No. 12, in a wheelchair,” Williams said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I just had a heart attack, had a pacemaker put in on the 23rd, and God brought me back for this privilege.”
Life has been complicated and hectic for the unbeaten 11 over the past two months, including four championships -- district, state, region, world -- and two national TV appearances. By the time the team hit the ground in Atlanta, WRALL president Mark Knight said the team collectively had one simple request.
“They all said sweet tea,” Knight said. “There’s no sweet tea in Oregon.”
Roger Stella prepared a poem for Friday’s homecoming. After working his way through a few joke stanzas, and adding a few lines taking aim at poor sportsmanship from other teams during Wednesday’s championship aftermath, he turned serious.
“Now for all of you out there, who came to welcome us home, this is your champions in front of you, be proud to call them your own,” Stella recited.
The crowd, predictably, went wild.
WRALL’s own version of the New York Yankees’ venerable monument park only recently grew to include the 2009 softball World Series champions. That massive chunk of granite sits just to the right of an identical one honoring the 2007 Little League Baseball World Series champs. Now space must be found in the rapidly filling circle of stones for the latest vertical reminder of stickball superiority.
Scott Winner, vice president of softball for WRALL, said he was asked Friday to sum up the world champions in 10 words. He overachieved.
“I can do it in one: perfect.”
To contact writer Ryan Gilchrest, call 256-9725.