Ramstein's season still a success
KUTNO, Poland — Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Others aren’t so sure.
The Arabian-American Little League team trotted around the field Wednesday waving the championship banner they’d won in the European Regional Tournament’s Trans-Atlantic playoffs.
As they did, the team from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, watched with heavy hearts. They’d been beaten 8-0. It didn’t taste very good.
“That could’ve been our team if we’d have played a better game,” Ramstein left fielder Jimmy Luong said. “But if you play the game, you’re always a winner, win or lose.
“I’ve been playing baseball for a long time,” added the 12-year-old. “And all my coaches have told me that.”
As strong as the Ramstein boys tried to be after the loss, the tear-stained cheeks of more than a few testified to the pain they felt.
Losing stinks, especially when a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., is on the line.
A half-hour after the game, as players came up to give manager Staff Sgt. Andre Murray a final hug, perspective began to sink in.
“It’s all right,” said Jeff Curry, the Ramstein pitcher who helped lead the team to the title game. “It’s just another game. It’s not the most important thing.”
Murray proudly pointed out that Ramstein had not won a district title since 1999. The baseball program’s goal to be competitive in 2003 was accomplished. The boys won the district title and earned the trip to Kutno.
“Against Stuttgart [in the district tournament], we were down 5-1 in the fourth inning,” said 11-year-old second baseman Dreshawn Murray, the coach’s son. “But we started playing better, we kept our heads up and we won 6-5.”
The team began to come together in late May. Coaches and other adults evaluated the 30 players who were nominated and whittled it down to 12. Coach Murray said the goal was to represent Ramstein.
Parents had to help. They raised money, drove their kids to practice (sometimes twice a day) and then hopped on the roller-coaster to Kutno.
Losing stinks for them, too, but in a different way.
“It’s hard but it’s very exciting,” said Lorraine Fritter, wife of Master Sgt. Richard Fritter of the 86th Medical Group and mother of Jake Fritter, the catcher who homered in his first at-bat in Poland.
“We knew how hard the boys worked and how badly they wanted it,” she said. “So it hurts to see them hurt.
“But they [Arabian-American] were the better team today. They worked hard like we did, and we hope they do well in Williamsport.”
As the Arabian-American boys — sons of U.S. oil workers in Saudi Arabia — jogged around the field waving their championship banner, they rounded the left-field corner and headed down the third-base line toward the Ramstein boys, who had gathered outside the dugout.
As the winners ran past the losers, the losers gave them a round of applause.
“Every one of the kids has a great attitude,” manager Murray said. “They’re all confident, but they’re good sports about everything.
“That, to me, is the No. 1 one thing about having a good ballclub.
“They got beat and they knew it. They knew they had to give ‘props’ to the kids that did win and that’s what they did.
“I’m proud to be coach of this team.”