GOODLETTSVILLE — When the Goodlettsville Little League All-Star team left for the Southeast Regional in Warner Robins, Ga., not many outside their immediate family knew they had gone.
Nearly four weeks later, they couldn’t hide their return.
Hundreds lined the streets of downtown, bearing signs, wearing blue Southeast jerseys, climbing shoulders and squeezing through legs to get a glimpse of the United States champions as they returned on Monday, one day after reaching the championship game of the Little League World Series.
“I had tears in my eyes since I landed at the [Nashville] airport and saw the water salute and all the people at the airport waiting for us,” coach Joey Hale said. “It’s been hard holding it back. We were told it was going to be a carnival but, you know, people tend to exaggerate. But this time it was no exaggeration. It has been truly amazing.”
As they stepped off the bus and walked through a tunnel of familiar faces and new fans on their way to the steps leading up to city hall, Goodlettsville’s All-Stars look half amazed and half exhausted.
The team left the LLWS and South Williamsport, Pa., at midnight and bused to their flight in Philadelphia. Numerous hours of waiting, a delay and one long layover later, Goodlettsville’s bus rolled down Main Street after 3:30 p.m. to a hero’s welcome.
“I didn’t realize it was that big here,” shortstop and pitcher Brock Myers said. “It’s amazing.”
Along with Goodlettsville Mayor John Coombs, congressman Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) came up from Nashville to hand the players certificates congratulating them on their national championship.
“This is one of the greatest days in the history of Goodlettsville and the history of Tennessee,” Cooper said.
“I’ve never in all my years in this community seen such an outpouring of support, of love and embracement of a team that is well deserved,” Coombs said. “These young men have literally built a field of dreams for us as citizens and children of this parks system to stand on and play on forever.”
The ceremony lasted just more than 10 minutes as city officials have planned another celebration for Sept. 8 at Moss-Wright Park. Instead, on Monday, the 13 players were shuffled into the city council chambers to reunite with family.
Goodlettsville fans and residents still snuck through the closed doors as Myers, Lorenzo Butler, Jonathan Seals and the rest of the team graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures.
“It’s crazy — that’s all I can say,” Myers said.
Crazy about sums the last two weeks.
In just its second year in Little League, Goodlettsville won its first four games at the LLWS and did so in thrilling fashion — with rallies and bouncing back from squandering big leads.
For Myers, just reaching the Little League World Series had been a dream for the last two years. Once it became reality, he soaked everything and called his time at Williamsport “Disney World on steroids.”
“I knew our chances of even being there were slim. But I wanted him to dream about it,” Kurt Myers said. “So when we made it we were just elated that we actually got there. Then we started winning a game, a second game, a third game and all of a sudden you’re realizing, ‘We got a shot at this thing.’ ... My wife and I looked at each other and thought, ‘How cool is this that he is getting to live his dream? He is actually getting to live what he dreamed about.’ We looked at each other and we didn’t really think about it but we’re living a dream too. It’s just surreal.”
Goodlettsville’s 15 minutes of fame aren’t running out yet, either.
On Thursday, the team will be honored during Vanderbilt’s season opener at South Carolina. Hale also said there are trips tentatively planned to be recognized at a Tennessee Titans game, a Nashville Sounds game, an Atlanta Braves game and at a University of Tennessee football game.
“No telling what else,” Hale said. “There’s a lot planned. As they give it to us, we’ll take it.”
The 43-year-old Hale hoped to take one more day off before he returned to his job as a Nashville firefighter. For his players, it is back to school on Tuesday — though at least one eighth grader at Davidson Academy will be a little late.
“I think we’re going to let him sleep in a little bit,” Kurt Myers said. “With all this craziness he should be exhausted.”