WRALL softball champs welcomed home

ATLANTA — A tired but happy bunch of Warner Robins girls touched down at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Thursday night.

They came home champions, and the governor of Georgia met them at the gate. A phalanx of eight Warner Robins police officers escorted them through the airport.

Friends and family waited near baggage claim. Complete strangers said congratulations.

What the girls really wanted was sweet tea. Apparently it’s tough to find in Portland, Ore., home of the softball Little League World Series.

You know Warner Robins won that, right? Rocked it. Whipped a team from former President George W. Bush’s town of Crawford, Texas, 14-2 in the final.

Gov. Sonny Perdue even brought a check from the president to the airport.

“The president pays off. ...” Perdue said. “I just wish I had bet more.”

But all the pomp and circumstance the city of Warner Robins could muster at the airport paled in comparison to touching down on Georgia soil. The girls said they’re even ready to go back to school this morning.

“That is the first time I’ve ever said I want to go to school,” said Caitlin Parker, second baseman for the world champion Warner Robins American Little League softball team.

There was sweet tea for the bus ride home. A local Sonny’s Bar-BQ donated dinner and the girls chowed down as a fleet of six Warner Robins cruisers, with Mayor Donald Walker aboard, led the bus home down Interstate 75.

Video from one of their games played on televisions on the bus. The police sirens came and went above the chatter of all these friends. DOT signs on the interstate were changed to welcome them home.

Back in Warner Robins, a crowd waited to welcome the champs.

The trip was great, the girls said. Awesome. Cool.

“They were all very healthy (in Portland),” first baseman Avery Lamb reported. “We ate tofu.”

But it doesn’t compare to home.

“I missed it so much,” said Carson Carriker, who went 3-3 in the final game.

“I just — I don’t know,” she said. “I missed my family more than anything. We do mostly everything together.”

Her mom was on the trip. Thursday was her birthday. Her dad was waiting at the airport, along with her big sister and her brother, Dalton.

He was one of the heroes back in 2007, when the Warner Robins boys went all the way.

The Warner Robins boys team is about to try and win their own World Series championship. That wasn’t lost on the folks who welcomed home these girls.

Even the strangers, including an airport worker named Don who waited with the welcome committee.

“Boys next week,” he said.

No one disagreed.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.