The greatest night in EL baseball history?
Town historians may have the institutional knowledge to disagree, what with memories made in the days when Jim Littlefield was winning state championships at the high school, or the night future major leaguer John McDonald scored the run that sent Niantic American Legion to the state tournament, spiking his helmet in celebration as he crossed home plate.
But the events of Friday July 22, 2022, just may have qualified as the greatest night in the baseball history of East Lyme. Two teams, two championships 25 miles apart, with what felt like the whole town at each setting.
The 10-year-olds won the sectional championship on their home field.
The Little Leaguers won the sectional championship in Madison against Madison.
And they were over the moon in the land of maroon.
“Drew (his son and team member) and I got to the field about 5:45 for a 7:30 game,” said Jeff Joyce, an assistant coach on the 10-year-old team, former head coach at Fitch and a pitcher for Avery Point and the University of Hartford.
“It looked like Ohio State-Michigan,” he said. “Tents all over the place. People grilling and tailgating. I never saw anything like it.”
And when it was over, the town fire trucks showed up honking and the celebrations lasted past a few bedtimes. The communal joy that only sports deliver faithfully.
This was about an hour after the Little Leaguers spit in the eye of defeat several times, a wonderfully entertaining 4-3 win over Madison in nine innings. With a script that came from central casting.
The center fielder (Bradley Ament) who saved the game by throwing out what would have been the winning run at the plate in extra innings.
The coach’s son (Wyatt Farrior) bombing a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth to snap a 1-1 tie, leaving some of us to wonder how dad, Joel Farrior, somehow remained calmer than a lagoon, in spite of how his insides must have been going volcanic.
And then as the East Lyme fans might have been counting the money, two strikes away from victory in the bottom of the eighth, here came Madison again, tying the game with a two-run double. Ebb and flow, blow for blow.
Finally in the ninth, with the sun setting behind the most aesthetically pleasing Little League field in America – on the shores of Long Island Sound at the Madison Surf Club – Cooper Siragusa doubled home what became the game winner once Jake Palermo pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth.
Utter joy. The kids threw their gloves in the air. The coaches sustained a group hug.
It wasn’t long after the ceremonies and picture taking that the caravan left for home, not to eat, shower and cool off, but to support the 10-year-olds in the Ohio State/Michigan atmosphere. A reminder that baseball ain’t dead yet in this lacrosse town.
A word on Joel Farrior: Some high school coaches across the region should have taken notes on Farrior’s postgame comportment Friday. My guess is that if more coaches demanded such composed and respectful behavior from their players, we’d have fewer incidents around here.
Farrior was fixated on the way his kids celebrated. There would be no approaching the Madison side of the field, or saying/doing anything directed at the Madison kids or coaches. He must have hollered the words “respect” and “respectful” a dozen times. It was the perfect message, complete with the right tone and pitch. His players acted accordingly. And the Madison folks noticed.
I nearly wept tears of joy.
I pray that among his players’ lasting memories from Friday night is this: There is nothing wrong with celebrating victory. It just needn’t be done in the face of the opponent.
And so the kids of East Lyme play on this week in their respective state championships, the Little Leaguers at home and the 10-year-olds in Fairfield, likely cursing the State Department of Transportation traveling the calamity known as Interstate 95.
Ah, but a small price for some indelible summer memories.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro