Monday August 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Met by a police escort at the city line, Pittsfield's newest celebrities made a triumphant return home on Sunday afternoon.

The Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year-old All-Stars pulled into the parking lot across from the First Street Common late in the afternoon, completing a day of travel from the site of the Babe Ruth World Series in Van Buren, Ark.

"You get a rush when you're running red lights with the police and everything. Everyone's honking their horns," said Pittsfield's Alex Carusotto. "It was a lot of fun. They were honking horns and waving. We put up the [New England champions] sign on the back of the bus so people knew who we were."

The tournament wrapped up on Saturday with South Lexington, Ky.

Mauricio Herrera gives his stepson, Kevin Donati, congratulatory balloons as Donati and the rest of the Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year old team are greeted
Mauricio Herrera gives his stepson, Kevin Donati, congratulatory balloons as Donati and the rest of the Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year old team are greeted across from the Pittsfield Common as they returned home from Van Buren, Ark., on Sunday. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
, winning the Babe Ruth 13-15 year old World Series title. The Pittsfield team finished second in its pool and were fifth out of the final six teams playing.

The players and coaches left Van Buren on Sunday morning for a flight to Chicago and a connection to Boston.

The players and some of their coaches traveled via school bus from Logan Inter national Airport on Sunday afternoon, pulling into the lot around 5:30. They were met by their parents, who were also on the journey and beat them home. The family members weren't alone in welcoming home the baseball heroes.

"We're proud of them," said Vinnie Barbarotta, who is the head football coach at Taconic High School. "I followed it through and through. It's exciting.

"Pittsfield hasn't seen this in years," he said.

The Pittsfield team left for Arkansas on Aug. 16 and finished second in its pool-play tournament, but lost to El Segundo, Calif., 5-4 in the first game of the single-elimination tournament.

"It's just been a great experience for all of us," Pittsfield player Chad Shade said. "We went to Arkansas in a place called Van Buren, and we had no idea where we were going."

"Everybody in that town was welcoming," he said.

Typically in such a tournament, the host community always makes a fuss over the teams, and that was no exception in Van Buren. Players said there were signs welcoming them all over the town, a place many of them said reminded them of Pittsfield.

What did catch some of the players by surprise was the response at home to their adventures.

"I didn't think people would make such a big deal out of it," said Devon Johnston. "What everyone has been doing has been awesome."

"It's interesting meeting your host family, because you don't know what to expect, when you go to a place like Arkansas especially," Alex Carusotto said. "It was cool meeting them. It turned out really good. They were the nicest people."

For the players from Pittsfield and the nine other teams, the tournament ends up being about more than just playing seven innings every day. The players go down there with their team, but they leave as part of what is considered a much bigger squad.

"When you go down there, you make so many good friends," said Dom Traversa. "It's not like a normal vacation where you just go and enjoy a place.

"When you go here, you meet new people and make great friendships of people who are 1,500 miles away. You might never see them again," he said. "We made a lot of great friendships, and that's what is hard about leaving."

The players all conceded that for at least a day or two, they were all feeling pretty disappointed about where they finished.

Arriving home three days after the elimination game, that disappointment has started to fade.

"Now that we're home, we get to enjoy it with all of our friends and family," said Bobby New, who as he spoke, was serenaded by honking horns of cars driving down First Street.

"We would have liked to have come home with better than fifth [place]. But we'll take it."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.