STAMFORD, Conn. – Bobby Valentine loves the way Westport is embracing its appearance in the Little League World Series.
“It looks like they are Little League players who are really enjoying it,’’ said Valentine, now the athletic director at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. “They are right in the moment, and it looks like they’re having a lot of fun. More than wins and losses, it’s all about having fun. They have the smiles when the smiles are called for. It looks like they’re having a tremendous experience.”
Valentine, the former manager of the Red Sox and Mets, covered the Little League World Series as a broadcaster for ESPN. He’s also very much in touch with younger players, and watches games in person and instructs them at the Stamford-based Bobby Valentine Sports Academy.
“They’re a group of kids who have realized they are living the dream and enjoying it,’’ Valentine said. “It looks like they’ve got some pretty good coaching, too. It’s great to see that the community is really behind them.”
Valentine played for some successful youth baseball teams in Stamford, but did not make it to the World Series. He did play for a Babe Ruth team from Stamford that reached the World Series in 1964. He said the most important thing for young players is to create fond memories of one of their initial athletic experiences.
“Youth sports build a lot of memories,’’ Valentine said. “People want to say that it builds other things, and it might. But it definitely builds memories. I’m happy a team from the area is doing just that.”
If Westport wins the U.S. championship, it could face a team from Tokyo in the final game. Valentine had two stints managing the Chiba Lotte Marines in Tokyo.
“I know the coach there, and they’ve been there before,’’ Valentine said. “If Westport plays Japan, I’ll be rooting for a great game.”