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Bless our hearts as Edmund Burke quoted: The only thing necessary for the triump of evil is for good men(and women) to...

Players get new aunts, uncles

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Greenville North State "aunt" Carol Zysset marks on JoeJoe Byrne's jacket as Ashton Byars looks on during a batting practice session Sunday in Williamsport, Pa.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — There can never be enough team moms in youth sports.

At the Little League World Series, local “aunts and uncles” serve as extensions of team moms. Part of this is because of intent by Little League International to keep the players away from outside distractions, especially at their on-site living area called The Grove.

There is one aunt and one uncle assigned to each of the 16 teams. For the Greenville North State squad that has won its first two games by a combined 22-0 score, they have Williamsport natives Doug Alexander and Carol Zysset.

Responsibilities for these volunteers include part-time security guard, part-time media liaison and part-time schedule coordinator.

Their job is serious because it is based around security, but they also make time to have fun with the kids.

“I’ve learned that my aunt has a pet parrot,” North State catcher Jacob Calder said of Zysset, who is in her 17th year in an aunt role. “You learn all kinds of interesting things about them as you go along.”

Because hats, T-shirts and other team apparel can be purchased at gift shops, there are three criteria required for players to keep up with at the World Series complex and especially every time they leave or enter The Grove: their team hat, a special wristband and special lanyard.

It is all-business when it comes to these three items. Alexander and Zysset take pride in the fact that they have not had any scares of losing track of a kid despite the players’ often-rambunctious ways at their age.

“You could steal one of these (lanyards) if you found one on the ground and put it on,” Zysset said. “You can buy a hat, so the thing that really identifies them is their wristband and that’s why we are harping on them all the time.

“Ultimately, we are responsible for them and I haven’t lost a kid in 17 years and he hasn’t lost a kid in 15 years. We are not going to start today.”

Alexander is a Little League umpire and Zysset a league administrator in the area. They have their own families, so their aunt and uncle status is strictly limited to the Little League World Series.

When the Greenville team takes batting practice at the part of the complex furthest away from The Grove, Zysset collects their lanyards and logs notes on her clipboard. She also makes sure clothes don't get mixed up.

In an activity so ingrained with baseball moms, she seeks out dirt spots in uniforms and helps the players look as fresh as possible for the ESPN cameras.

“Aunt Carol is just like a mom,” Greenville coach Brian Fields said. “They are in charge of getting our laundry done and telling us where we need to be and who needs interviews or what time we are going to a ball game or we have lunch. Also, they are in charge of the rooms and they make them straighten their rooms before we head out somewhere.”

There is a random draw by the hosts to determine which team they are assigned to each year. Zysset and Alexander have been paired together for 15 years, collecting all kinds of gifts from International and American teams along the way.

They said every team is different and every coach handles the bustle of the LLWS differently. Fields and North State are appreciative of their versatile duo’s insight in Williamsport.

“They know the place and know how everything flows,” Fields said. “It’s just nice knowing that we have two people ready to do what’s needed to do if we need anything.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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