For Rich Yelle, Woodstock Challenger Little League coach and father to a buddy and player, it’s tough to really put into words the experience of last weekend.
“It’s almost indescribable,” Yelle said. “It was just such a nice experience. ... Everything from meeting Nomar Garciaparra to the game being broadcast nationally to people texting during the game telling us what kids they saw.”
Yelle was part of a group of McHenry County residents involved with Woodstock’s Challenger Little League who got to travel to Williamsport, Pa., last weekend for an exhibition game at the Little League World Series. Six players and their buddies from the Woodstock league were selected to play where the best youngsters in the game play.
The game was streamed live on ESPN3.com and still can be found on the site through a search.
From all accounts, the weekend was an unforgettable experience. Yelle said his son, Cam, was all smiles.
“He absolutely loved it,” Yelle said. “He was wound up like the Energizer bunny. He had a ball with it.”
Jennie Kreitz said her family took the opportunity to celebrate her daughter Lily’s 13th birthday. Lily served as a buddy over the weekend while her sister Karis, who played in the Woodstock league during the regular season, came along to watch.
Kreitz said there was a spark of excitement in the air during the game.
“We have three girls, and we would never be there otherwise,” Kreitz said.
Yelle’s favorite part? The unexpected camaraderie established between the Challenger kids and international teams.
He remembered at least a handful who came to watch the 9 a.m. game, even though a couple of them had their own game later in the day.
“Japan and Mexico were out there, Canada, Australia,” he said. “I was just amazed at the number of international teams.”
The local players got particularly close with the Mexican team, which was in the pavilion next to them during a midday picnic. The kids ended up playing soccer, taking pictures and singing songs together, Yelle and Challenger Vice President Rochelle Donahue said.
“They were all awesome,” Donahue said.
Donahue, who helped get Challenger started in Woodstock two years ago, called the weekend a “once-in-a-lifetime, unbelievable experience.”
“You’re basically sitting there with your jaw on the floor the whole time,” she said.