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Homecoming: Greet New England Little League champs at 5 p.m. Friday at Diamond Hill Park

August 20, 2014

The Cumberland American team dances to pre-game music during warm-ups at Lamade Stadium Saturday. (Photo by Ernest A. Brown)

CUMBERLAND – Dave Belisle promised his Cumberland American ballplayers that they would be regaled upon returning to town, and local officials are taking necessary measures to ensure the darlings of the Little League World Series receive a proper homecoming.
If you wish to salute the Cumberland American players and coaches for the memories they provided this summer, make sure to be at Diamond Hill Park on Friday at 5 p.m. The team plans to leave Williamsport, Pa. on Friday morning at 9 a.m., for the approximately eight-hour bus ride back to Cumberland.
John Shevlin, president of the Cumberland Youth Baseball/Softball League, said officials will coordinate with the coaches and driver to see that the team arrives at the appointed time, so that a sizable crowd will be on hand.
“If they somehow breeze through (traffic), they can slow down along the way,” Shevlin said.
“We don’t want them to show up at 4:30 and have no one here,” said Mike Crawley, director of the Cumberland Parks & Recreation Department.  
Several Cumberland police cruisers will greet the bus once it clears the Rhode Island border in an effort to ensure smooth passage. 
Friday’s event has already drawn considerable public and media interest, the organizers said, even in comparison to the last time the Cumberland American team came home to Diamond Hill Park following an appearance representing New England at the Little League World Series.
“I’ve been getting called from the Boston TV stations saying that they want to film live. They want to set up their cables and trucks in areas that we don’t have,” said Crawley. “A lot people have said they’re coming in from different areas.”
The interest reflects the national attention that the team gained in wake of its remarkable play at the tournament, and Belisle’s stirring postgame remarks after Cumberland’s final game of the summer. Taking that into consideration, you can probably bank on a rousing ovation along with more than a few cameras greeting the team as the bus pulls into the park.   
 “Dave’s speech at the end of game took off with everybody,” Crawley said. “Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. It’s caught like wildfire.”
Added Shevlin: “I’ve been getting a lot of emails saying that Dave is a class act and parents say, ‘I want to bring my kids to something like that.’”
Crawley said the bus will navigate a short parade route from the entrance to Diamond Hill to a stage located in the back of the park.  
“Everyone will be able to see them on the bus,” Crawley said. 
A speaking program will commence once the members of the CALL team step on the stage. Mayor Daniel McKee is expected to deliver remarks before the microphone is turned over to the guests of honor – the coaches and possibly one of the players.
“It’s a possibility that a member of the team talks about the experience and what the coaches meant to them,” Shevlin said.
There will be an opportunity to mingle with the team once the speaking portion is through. 
“There have been a lot of requests so they’ll be a busy bunch of kids,” said Shevlin, noting that Cumberland American will also be feted at Fenway Park on Sept. 5 prior to that night’s Red Sox-Blue Jays game. 
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03

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