New Castle, Indiana, a scrappy rustbelt town of 19,000 that has limped along in the wake of the closure of a Chrysler manufacturing plant and whose coach is a pink slipped auto worker, is headed to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series, which begins tonight.
The Indianapolis Star's Robert King chronicles the unlikely rise of The New Castle All-Stars, whose mayor has moved his office to Williamsport for the week to support these 11 and 12 year-olds who have reached near-mythic status in the town.
Given all that has been swirling around the team, and how it has burrowed into the hearts of the locals, it should come as no surprise that nearly 1,000 people from New Castle are expected to make the pilgrimage to Williamsport. Nor that another 2,000 to 3,000 are expected to gather tonight at the team's home ballpark, where the game will be projected on a screen attached to the backstop behind home plate.
It's the stuff of Hollywood: The former head coach died of colon cancer last year, and the assistant agreed not to leave the town in search of work. Instead, he set his sights on Williamsport. The star pitcher, a kid named Bryce Pinkard, lost everything but a box of photos three months ago when his house burned down—after he saved his mom, two bothers, and a friend from the flames.
Oh, and that head coach who passed away before he could shepherd these kids to the big dance? His son is one of the All Stars' best clutch hitters.
Say what you may about the myth making of the American Dream and the "favorite pastime" and the tired tropes of the "boys of summer"—stories like these are enough to warm even the coolest heart.