ELYRIA - Going to the 2013 Little League World Series certainly served as its own reward for a group of 11- and 12-year-old girls who love the game of softball.
But coming in sixth in the world deserves some kind of hometown recognition, and that's exactly what the Elyria Little League East All-Stars received Saturday afternoon at Midway Mall. Put on by Ray McConnell, owner of the mall's Auntie Anne's, and other mall merchants, the celebration was the community's way of congratulating them on a great year.
"They worked really hard and have made us all very proud," said Martha Silvy, manager of Auntie Anne's.
With just five teams in the world ahead of the Elyria youngsters, Mayor Holly Brinda, who issued the girls a proclamation in their honor, wondered what would be next for them.
"If you girls can do this at 11 and 12, what's going to happen by the time you're 21?" she said.
Team Manager Len Howser said he couldn't predict their futures that far down the line, but told the crowd of parents and supporters to watch for the girls to continue to perfect their skills all over Lorain County.
"I'm sure in a few years we will see a lot of these girls playing for Midview and Elyria," he said.
Howser said the idea to send the All-Stars to the World Series was planted years ago. Several local games and hundreds of practices later, they realized their dream and traveled to Portland, Ore., to live out that vision.
"We played so many games through the fall and the winter with parents traveling twice a week to Akron with no complaints, or at least none that I heard," he said.
Gabby Shackelford, 13, said it was all worth it, "even though it seemed like softball has taken over my summer."
The memories of playing against Italian and Puerto Rican teams will last a lifetime, said Rybecca Kubisen, 13.
"It was probably the funnest thing I have ever done in my entire life," she said. "I will totally look back on this and tell my kids and grandkids."
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.