Columbia Little Leaguers Shoot for World Series
COLUMBIA - Four years ago, Columbia sent a team to the Little League World Series...now another group is trying to get there.
There are multiple options to play youth baseball in Columbia, but only kids playing in the Daniel Boone League have a shot at the Little League World Series (LLWS). For a group of kids...they've waited years for their turn.
It's picture day for the Daniel Boone American All-Stars...these pictures will help them remember a state championship season they'll never forget.
"This makes 6 out of 7," stated Coach Greg Kespohl, "so, there's a standard set there. I don't want to call it an expectation, but there's a little bit of pressure involved."
The champs are only a regional title away from following the 2006 Columbia team that went to the LLWS.
"I remember everybody in the town knew when they were playing. Everybody had their TV's turned on to them to watch them," remembered Carson England, a player for the All-Stars.
Coach Kespohl said, "It's pretty exciting for the kids and it's pretty exciting for the adults involved."
The kids are going into seventh or eighth grade....either 12 or 13 years old...including Bryan Bolton, who's already 5'8".
"I got his birth certificate," laughed Coach Kespohl.
Coach Kespohl knows about post-season play. As a 12-year old kid...his all-star team won the state title in 1982.
"We were the first Daniel Boone team to do that," remembered Kespohl. "I spent a lot of time on the bench. A lot of good players on that team that spent some time in college baseball."
"He told me about the team he played on, but he didn't tell me they were the first to win state. He said they were about 2 games away from the Little League World Series," said his son Connor Kespohl, who plays on the All-Stars team.
But he says this year's team has more pitching than when he was a kid.
"It was one of the greatest memories of my childhood which is why I'm doing this. It's why I'm out here and why I coach and why I enjoy it so much. Creating the same sort of thing for kids," said Coach.
Coaching his son Connor makes it even more special...but for Connor...it's a mixed bag.
"There's good things and bad things about being the coaches son," stated Connor. "I'm probably the first one to know everything, but the bad thing is I've got three bags to carry. Not just my bag, but 3 bags and a ball bucket."
"It's rewarding to see kids work hard and be able to reach their goals and this something that all these guys wanted to do and to be able to do it with your son is really exciting," said Coach Kespohl.
The entire team likes Coach Kespohl..especially when he's pitching during batting practice.
"We always hit him We don't hit coach Spencer," said England. "He throws it right in there... right in the sweet spot everytime. Somebody hits one out at least every time he pitches."
But Kespohl doesn't mind, this summer's team is a picture he'll always cherish...just like when he played back in '82.
'Tell me there's a picture of that...'
"I don't think so," said Coach Kespohl.
"We've got it on the wall in the living room," reminded Connor.
"He sold me out," laughed Coach Kespohl. "I should have talked to him before I let him talk to you."
It's really a family tradition...for more than 30 years, Greg's dad Gary has worked as a Little League District Administrator in Missouri.
The team lost to South Dakota Sunday 12-1. The Daniel Boone Little League team is 1-1 in pool play and will play Iowa Monday.