WHEELERSBURG – Opening day for Wheelersburg Little League always has a special feeling to it, and Friday’s Opening Day ceremonies were no different. The only difference between previous Opening Days and Friday’s were the new features applied to Gene Bennett Park.
Last August, as everyone knows, the Wheelersburg Pirates Little League Softball team captured the state of Ohio and America’s hearts during their run to claim the state’s first ever Little League World Series title. Following Friday’s parade which signaled the start of the Little League season, the World Series team was honored those in attendance.
“Opening day is always a fun and exciting day in Wheelersburg,” said Dusty Salyers, head coach of last year’s World Series Little League team. “It’s a day that everyone looks forward to. This year was just extra special because of the World Series championship. It was great to be able to lead the parade and kind of relive all of those feelings of accomplishment once again. Any time we are able to put the team in a position to be recognized, it’s great.”
Last year’s historic team was not only memorialized in word and memory, but also in stone, literally. As a gesture to help always remember what the Wheelersburg team accomplished on the biggest stage, the Southern Ohio Vault Co. Inc. Monument Division donated a monument to Wheelersburg Little League to be placed at the entrance of Gene Bennett Park in Wheelersburg, home of Wheelersburg Little League and the Wheelersburg Pirates high school softball program.
“The folks at Southern Ohio Vault Co. actually got ahold of me not long after we won the World Series and told me they would like to donate the monument,” Salyers said. “We got together and came up with the design, but for the most part it was all them. We really appreciate the gesture, it’s another really great way to recognize our team and their accomplishment.”
Found on the front of the donated monument is a picture of last year’s World Series title team celebrating their accomplishment with an engraving which reads “2018 World Series Champions: Wheelersburg 11 & 12 yr. old Little League Softball Lady Pirates #BurgTakesTheWorld” and on the back is an engraving which lists the 13 players on last season’s team and the three coaches of the World Champion Pirates.
“We decided fairly quickly, within a couple of weeks of them winning, that we wanted to give them the monument,” said Tammy Hazelbaker of Southern Ohio Vault Co. Inc. Monument Division. “Brandan and Jordan (Russell) being alumni of Wheelersburg and having kids involved at sports there had a lot to do with it, but also it’s just a great thing for our whole community. It’s a really big deal for those girls, and we’re glad they’ll always have this monument to remember their great accomplishment.”
With the beautiful monument now on display at the entrance of Gene Bennett Park, it truly memorializes a special moment in Scioto County history.
Winning a World Series title is setting the bar incredibly high for future Wheelersburg Little League teams. With just five returning players from the World Series team on this year’s 11 and 12 year old team, Salyers is hoping his team achieves that level of success but is realistic about the historic significance of last year’s run.
“This year’s team has five girls returning to the little league program,” Salyers said. “I think it’d be unfair to compare this year’s team to last year’s. What we were able to do last year was unbelievable and would be hard to improve on. I just hope they can bring some of the things they learned last year and help to lead this year’s team. We have a great Little League system which helps carry over to our high school programs. I’m confident this year’s team will have a long tournament run, but if it doesn’t end in a World Series title it doesn’t meant it was an unsuccessful year.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved