'Sold out': Fans loving Greenville team
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Australia was the popular choice among fans during the first few days at the Little League World Series, but since then the U.S. Southeast team from Greenville has stolen the show.
The team’s popularity hit a new mark Tuesday afternoon when some of its T-shirts were sold out at the main gift shop at the World Series complex. At that point, Australia and Greenville were the only teams with sold out items.
Greenville North State’s fans who traveled to eastern Pennsylvania to watch the historical run have fully embraced the U.S. Southeast colors of yellow and black. The yellow and black filled the stands during Greenville’s first two games — both wins in which the other team did not get a hit — and the television screen during ESPN’s coverage of the worldwide event.
Greenville’s dominant pitching has been the storyline of the double-elimination tournament. It has led to unprecedented exposure, including when ESPN announcer Jessica Mendoza wore a yellow “SE” hat during the Major League Baseball Little League Classic in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday night.
“We would love to continue to paint the stadium gold,” team mom Wagner Grubb said Tuesday. “And if we can’t sit in the stadium then it would be awesome if the entire hill was gold.”
Grubb added that moms, dads and other family members of the all the Greenville players have managed to stay in Pennsylvania even after Sunday, sticking with her summer-long theme that they plan to watch the kids play “one game at a time.”
The next game is tonight at 7:30 against Lufkin, Texas, which also is 2-0 in the series.
The winner goes straight to the U.S. Championship game set for Saturday afternoon. The loser will play Thursday in a contest to determine the second team in Saturday’s U.S. final.
Greenville, Lufkin and the team from Reynosa, Mexico, have had some of the loudest moments from the stands.
“It doesn’t surprise me, but I didn’t know if it was really going to be like that,” North State coach Brian Fields said after his team’s first win Friday night against Sioux Falls, S.D. “They were loud and like the 10th man up there. And we are going to need those folks, because we are playing some great teams.”
Support is strong for North State in Williamsport and in Greenville, and its popularity is growing elsewhere. With that has come gifts for the players, including shipments of cookies and bagels.
Former East Carolina and professional baseball player Mark Minicozzi sent the kids new customized batting gloves from his Primal Baseball batting glove company.
North State is one win from reaching the same point as the Greenville Tar Heel club that played in the U.S. championship game in 1998.
Although the families are using donated funds and committing to staying for the entire event, some of the fans left after Sunday’s game. Followers have already contacted Grubb about making a return trip.
“It has been exhausting with the travel and being away from home and living on ball fields and the ball field food, but we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world,” Grubb said.
“The boys seem to be enjoying the atmosphere and continue to make amazing friendships with players from all over the world. This is a once in a lifetime experience.”
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.