WASHINGTON — With the Washington Nationals’ Racing Presidents running not far behind them, the Mamie Johnson Little League team burst through a paper banner reading “congratulations” and “D.C. champs.”
It was part of a celebration for the team that this season became the first predominantly African-American team to make it to the Little League Mid-Atlantic Regional. Their journey to the Little League World Series ended early after a loss to a team from Berlin, Maryland, in the regional.
“They gave all they had, but we just came up short,” said Keith Barnes, the team’s coach.
At the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast D.C., the major league team hosted a party for the local Little League heroes. Many of the young athletes learned to play baseball at the facility.
And even after a dinner served by the Racing Presidents, the young athletes still had the appetite to play ball.
Academy Vice President Tal Alter said it was great watching the young players make D.C. proud. “It brings tears to my eyes. I think a lot of people feel this way, but these are our boys,” Alter said.
For team mom Cathy Markel, she said the team made the D.C. area proud and showed that anyone from anywhere can go the distance in baseball. “For the community, it meant that anything is possible and that, if you can dream it, you can do it,” she said.
Twelve-year-old outfielder Joshua Young said he enjoyed the bit of freedom the young players got when they stayed in dorms while in Bristol, Connecticut, for the regional.
He added that this season isn’t one he’ll soon forget. “The fun that we had working together, and the teamwork we had, and the home runs we had, and the hard hits we had — it just felt great.”