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Florida Team Has Major Link

From Associated Press

After 15 seasons in the major leagues, Mike Stanley finally made it to a world series. He can thank his son.

Stanley and another former major leaguer, Dante Bichette, are coaches on the Maitland, Fla., team at the Little League World Series.

Now, Stanley looks around and marvels at the sights: anxious kids punching gloves, groundskeepers tending pristine fields, green mountains towering beyond the outfield fence.

“Look how beautiful this place is, to have a mountainside as your backdrop,” Stanley said as he walked back from batting practice Thursday with his 11-year-old son, Tanner.

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“I’m past my time playing,” he said. “It’s time for these kids to start enjoying things.”

Bichette’s son, Dante Jr., came up big Friday night in a nationally televised game, scoring the go-ahead run on an error after a wild pitch in the fifth inning before hitting a three-run homer in the sixth to give Maitland a 7-3 victory over Davenport, Iowa, Northwest.

In other games Friday, West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, defeated Council Rock-Newtown of Newtown, Pa., 7-1; and Guam beat Russia, 6-2.

The Maitland team has been in town since Monday, and Stanley and Bichette have drawn much of the buzz so far.

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Stanley’s longest postseason run was in 1999 with the Boston Red Sox team that lost the American League championship series to the New York Yankees.

Bichette, who began his major league career with the Angels, had his only postseason appearance in 1995, when his Colorado Rockies lost a National League division series to the Atlanta Braves. Today, Bichette says his focus is on his son, and the rest of the Maitland team. Father and son came to the Little League World Series in 2003 as spectators, a time that spurred Bichette’s son’s dreams of returning as a player.

“I did what any dad would do when a kid says he’s got a dream. I went out there and helped him chase it,” Bichette said.

“Every time you do something for your little boy,” he added, “it’s got to rank higher than personal achievement.”

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