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Little League parents advance, but to where?

There was more than eating on the menu at Panera Bread as Citrus Park Little League moms made plans to follow their boys to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

There was more than eating on the menu at Panera Bread as Citrus Park Little League moms made plans to follow their boys to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

TAMPA — Byron Martin unfolded a map of the United States on the table and focused on Pennsylvania.

"I have one question," the retail manager said above the clinking of coffee cups and the chatter of diners. "Where exactly is Williamsport?"

Williamsport is the reason Martin and a handful of other families gathered at the Carrollwood Panera Bread Saturday morning to map out their lives for the next two weeks.

The day after 12 boys from Citrus Park crushed an Alabama team to earn a trip to the Little League World Series, their parents were left scrambling to buy plane tickets, book hotel rooms and rearrange work schedules.

The parents awoke Saturday pumped with excitement despite very little sleep. After the Citrus Park Little Leaguers beat Westside Alabama 11-0 in Gulfport Friday night, the families drove back to Tampa, where they watched ESPN highlights at the Tampa Ale House over a late dinner and then went home to watch the game in its entirety, which they had taped. They went to bed about 2 a.m.

As the boys slept Saturday, their parents gathered around laptops and bagels to figure out the logistics of the trip. The boys leave for Pennsylvania on Tuesday and play Friday. The Little League organization is paying for the boys' plane tickets, lodging, food and uniforms, they said.

The families are basically left to fend for themselves. But no one was complaining.

Breakfast eaters congratulated the smiling parents and grandparents, all of whom made a pact weeks ago not to check hotel or airfare for fear of jinxing the boys' chances.

"We just lived day by day," said Diane Reid, whose son, Wyatt Reid, hit a home run to end Friday's game at 11-0 on a mercy rule-shortened victory.

They finally took a look at the cost — last-minute airfare was outrageous, and many hotel rooms were already booked. They estimated the cost per family to be around $5,000.

"None of us are rich," said Sarah Martin, whose son, Daniel, plays outfield. "We're just normal parents with great kids."

The parents are Realtors and bankers, stay-at-home moms and trauma nurses, radiology technicians and retailer managers, clerics and police officers.

Baseball has dominated their summer, even disrupting vacations for the families of the 12- and 13-year-old boys. Now, they are all going to miss the first week of school as well — and that includes seventh-grader Daniel Martin, who has perfect attendance.

But no one seemed to mind.

It seems they had been preparing for this day for quite some time. Most of the boys came together as all-stars to win the state tournament as 10-year-olds, and the buzz grew last year.

"We all knew we had a special group of kids," said Stephanie Gilcrease, mother of centerfielder and pitcher Levi Gilcrease. "It's been a goal we've had in the back of our minds for a couple of years. It's such a great feeling. It's a feeling of a lifetime."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at (813) 269-5312.

Celebrate with team

The public is invited to a send-off party for the team from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday at the Citrus Park Little League, 7506 Gunn Highway, Tampa. Donations to help defray costs for the Citrus Park Little League families traveling to Williamsport, Pa., can be made at the event or by contacting Moises Garcia at (813) 323-6513.

Little League parents advance, but to where? 08/09/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 3:21pm]

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