DES MOINES, Iowa -- The boys are back in town. "It feels good. We`ve been on the road for 22 straight days," said Coach Rob Emanuel. The Johnston Little League All-Stars went the distance, against all odds, and made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. "They started off with 7500 teams. I think there`s been, they said, 35,000 games since the All-Stars started, and for us to come down to one of eight teams in the U.S., and to be in the final four is just truly amazing," said Emanuel. The team got back today, arriving at the airport in Des Moines early this afternoon. The Johnston All-Stars had one of the longest runs for an Iowa team in the Little League World Series. They were the first Midwest Regional Champions to win multiple games in the Little League World Series.
Making it all the way to Williamsport is every little leaguer's dream, but only a very few actually do it. A couple of the boys told us what it was like. “It was amazing, having everyone back home watching us, cheering us on and just...playing on a great field," said Owen Dawson, who played Second Baseman and Catcher, and wore #8 on the team. “I think I’ll remember it as once in a lifetime chance, and how rarely any kids get to do this," said Dawson.
“It’s living a dream out there, meeting other kids, not even being able to speak their language, but being able to wave at them or something. It’s just fun to talk to them and stuff, and step out onto that field, playing baseball," said Josh Larson, who played Pitcher, Second Baseman and Third Baseman, and wore # 9 on the team. "We did better than we ever did before. I didn`t know we could do this, go this far, but I guess we worked hard and got it," said Larson.
The little leaguers did Iowa and the Midwest proud; exceeding all expectations, making history, and making major plays with the whole world watching. "I was catching and there`s a ball hit super high and at one point I couldn`t even see it anymore and then when it started to come back down, I stuck my glove backwards and caught it," said Dawson, referring to the catch he made that was on SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays of the Day. "It`s awesome, because everyone gets to see it," said a beaming Dawson. “It was exciting because I never thought I’d do it and I’ve always wanted to be on that," said Dawson of making the it on the ESPN Top 10 list.
And for parents and grandparents, who were along for the journey, the trip was just as exciting. "It was an experience of a lifetime for the parents as much as it was for the kids. Just seeing these kids live out their dream," said Cindi Dawson, Owen's mother. “We were stopped by several people, telling us that the kids from the Midwest, they really had great manners, they were respectful. Very social, you know, they put (themselves) out there, meeting, the kids from the Caribbean were a team that they became good friends with. They would play ping pong at night," said Dawson.
“Just wonderfully exciting and a lot of pride there. The boys are such a unified team, they get a long so well, and the parents as well too. I never heard a bickering word or negativeness out of them and it was just a good experience," said Roby Larson, Josh's grandmother. "I got to be there in Indianapolis (Indiana) for when they got the Midwest title and then on to Pennsylvania later," said Larson. “I have a sister in Richmond. She came up for it. His grandpa from Connecticut brought two carloads so it was a gathering time too...I have a sister in Richmond (Virginia). She came up for it. His grandpa from Connecticut brought two carloads, so it was a gathering time too," said Larson.
And even though they didn`t win the whole thing (getting eliminated after losing to Tennessee), the fact that they got as far as they did, is a victory in and of itself. "After the game, we just reminded them that, told them to look around at the surroundings and say you were here. You were at the World Series, and you know, regardless of the outcome of this game, you accomplished something that very few 12 year-old, 13 year-old boys get to experience," said Emanuel.