Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Belisle recalls famous speech
BRISTOL, Conn. — It was the speech heard around the world.
David Belisle said he remembers it like it was yesterday.
"It's amazing what kids can do for you," Belisle said.
It's more like, it's amazing what can happen when you tell kids to keep their chins up after what had to be a truly heartbreaking defeat.
Belisle, who will broadcast the Little League World Series New England Regional championship game on ESPN Sunday afternoon, was managing the Cumberland, R.I. team that represented New England in the 2014 World Series.
"I had the privilege of coaching some wonderful kids. The message was a positive one, but one I didn't know was going to be voiced out to so many people because the mic was on," Belisle. "I'm glad it turned out the way it did, as far as the speech. It was a positive speech, and it's one that most coaches do."
You might remember the 2014 Series when Cumberland lost to the Jackie Robinson Little League of Chicago 8-7 in Williamsport. In the game's waning moments, Belisle went out to the mound to talk to his players on the field. The message was universal, and it went viral.
"You had the whole place jumping," Belisle told his team that night. "You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. Because you want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys that don't quit. They like guys that play the right way."
That, in one quote, was the sum and substance of what Belisle said. And it resonates to this day.
Belisle coached all four of his sons in Little League and is now working with Cumberland's Challengers League, which is like the current high school unified sports teams. He said he started coaching Little League baseball when he was 19 years old.
He spent almost two decades working with the Little League players, and said that he has a lot of respect for coaches like Joe Skutnik and Ty Perrault of Pittsfield American — both of whom were coaching when Pittsfield last sent teams to the New England Regional. That, by the way, was 2000 and 2001.
"It says to me the commitment they have" to Little League and the players, Belisle said. "When you can coach beyond your own kids, that shows you love the interaction, you love to teach, you love to see the nurturing you can provide the some of these young adults. Just enough to get them to compete and compete at a level where they can still have fun doing it."
David Belisle is not just a baseball guy either. He has been an assistant hockey coach at Rhode Island's Mount St. Joseph Academy for 35 years, working for his father Bill. Bill Belisle is a legendary high school coach in New England circles.
The Belisles have coached NHL standouts like Brian Lawton and Mathieu Schneider, and a number of other current and former NHL players.
As to the current job, which is only part-time during the Little League tournament, David Belisle says he loves it.
"Just like my kids on the Little League diamond made me look good, the people in the back — all of the production people — they make me look really good," he said. "I do this for one week, and then I get back on the road [in a sales job]. If I had my druthers, I'd do both."
Ultimately, David Belisle said that Little League Baseball isn't about TV ratings or even trophies.
"We need to show that positive influence that we can have on our kids, if we send that positive message," Belisle said. "I think it's what Little League Baseball is about."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.
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