BELLAIRE • MEMORIAL • RIVER OAKS • TANGLEWOOD • WEST UNIVERSITY

Beyond the Bellaire Diamond

Annie
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Carroll Sylvester

Carroll Sylvester (front row, third from left) has a kept a photo album of his Little League days in Bellaire. Pictured here are the Yankees in 1951. Recognize anyone in this photo? Let the rest of us know by leaving a comment below.

On a Saturday in the early 1950s at the Bellaire baseball field, 11-year-old Carroll Sylvester steps up to the plate. Swirling the bat around, he prepares for the pitch.

Crack! He hits the ball and everyone shouts, “Go! Go! Go!” Carroll rounds the bases to score for his team, the Bellaire Yankees.

These familiar sounds have carried throughout Bellaire for 60 years, making generations’ worth of Little League memories. Here are some we’ve heard recently.

Carroll, who is now a 73-year-old retired KPMG partner, participated in the inaugural year of Bellaire Little League along with Jim Fox, often referred to as the grandfather of Bellaire Little League, who played on a different team. Jim later coached his son Mike’s team, and these days, he and his wife Patti still come to the field to watch their two younger grandchildren, Justin and Tanner Fox.

When Carroll is asked for the names in an old team photo (see photo on this page), he glances at it and smiles. Wearing his “100 Club” ball cap, he says, “I’m having a little trouble. It’s my 73-year-old memory.” But he proceeds to name most of their full names. “We never could beat [Jim’s team] the Chiefs.”

Carroll’s son-in-law, David Eby, an orthotist, played Bellaire Little League starting in the late 1960s. By 12, he became a scorekeeper and umpire for the little kids’ Pee Wee teams. He remembers a particular summer where it rained every single day.

“We had to play the [Pee Wee] games in a gym, so every little hit became a huge hit because it rolled across the floor. They loved that,” said David.

David Trammall, a retired business owner, played Bellaire Little League in the early 1970s, when the reward after a game was “a coke or a snow cone from the popsicle stand” and when kids played pick-up baseball games until 1 a.m. with off-duty Bellaire police officers acting as their umpires. “I remember parents would come outside to check on us, and the cops would say, ‘They’re fine. We got ‘em,’” said David.


In 2000, the Bellaire Little League had some local celebrities in the making when they won the coveted title of Little League National Champions and advanced to the 54th Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. Pictured is the team, including (front row, from left) Michael Johnson, Ben Silberman, Drew Zizinia, Hunter Johnson, Terrence McConn, Zachariah Jamail, Mitchell Malone, (back row, from left) coach Cliff Atherton, Ross Haggard, Sean Farrell, coach Larry Johnson, Alex Atherton, Justin Shufelt, Nick Wills and manager Terry McConn. Not pictured: coach Steve Malone. 

In 1972, his team, the Bellaire Orioles, was preparing to face the toughest pitcher – Cheyn Onarecker. Before the game, they were told Cheyn had broken his arm.

The boys started cheering. But, as they arrived on the field, they realized Cheyn, right-handed, had broken his left arm. He went on to pitch, winning the game for his team.

Today’s players are just as tough.

When St. John’s School eighth grader Jake Greenberg was a Pee Wee, he had his front tooth knocked out after running into an infielder, and five years later, his nose broken while catching a pop fly ball, but he still plays baseball.

In 2000, the Bellaire Little League won the coveted title of Little League National Champions and advanced to the 54th Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. Although the team came up short against the Sierra Maestra Little League of Maracaibo, Venezuela, the experience is still etched in the minds of the players, including Hunter Johnson and Ben Silberman.

Hunter played first base/outfield in the game and credits the countless hours of practice and games they had endured to not let the “bright lights and national TV audience” faze them. “We had been imagining ourselves playing in the World Series every day in our sandlot pickup games,” he said.

Ben played third base. He remembers becoming good friends with some of the international teams, “especially the Japanese. We played ping pong for hours during our off time.”

Tanya and Jerry Gee moved to Bellaire in 2006 when their son Brook was 6 and Tanya was pregnant with their triplets, Christopher, Matthew and Stephen. They chose their house based on its proximity to the park at Horn Academy. The boys, now 12 and 6, all play Bellaire Little League.

Tanya and Jerry’s fondest memory was five years ago when their son made an unassisted triple play on Jerry’s birthday. Brook says, “It’s the best birthday gift I’ve ever given my dad.”

Tanya joined the Little League Board of Directors and helped start the capital campaign “Dirt to Diamonds” (see dirttodiamonds.org). The fields have been vastly improved, and everyone is looking forward to celebrating at the annual Bellaire Little League gala April 27 at Constellation Field, home of the Sugar Land Skeeters (see bellairell.org).

“This is for our children and our grandchildren,” said Tanya. “It’s about keeping this in the neighborhood.”

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