Little League World Series
Post Oak makes lifetime memories
It was like a summer camp made up of the baddest players in the world,” says John Klosek, reflecting on living at The Grove, modeled like an Olympic village for the players and coaches at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
“It’s the security-gated barracks where all the teams live. You all eat there together in the cafeteria, sitting underneath your regional championship banner. They had a recreation room with five ping pong tables, video arcade games and corn hole, and the boys would meet and trade pins with players from Hawaii to Japan.”
Post Oak Little League (POLL), represented by a roster of 13 young players, a manager and two coaches, played their way into a spot on an international stage in Williamsport this past August at the 72nd edition of the Little League World Series.
Led by manager David Rook and assistant coaches David Wylie and John Klosek, the POLL team was composed of Charlie Wylie, Ethan Goldstein, George Kugle, Carter Pitts, Parrish Facciponte, Kaleb Rook, Andy Guy, Matthew Hedrick, Cade West, Richie Klosek, Ryan Selvaggi, Andrew Stover and Justin Michaelis. They sported striped game shirts reminiscent of the Houston Astros throwback jerseys and quickly became fan favorites during their three-game run in Williamsport.
For any Little League team, making it to Williamsport is a lofty goal. “It was a starting pool of 7 million Little Leaguers that came down to just 300 players: eight international teams and eight national teams,” says Klosek, marveling in the odds. Rook and Klosek say that diligent work, team chemistry and positive attitudes helped the POLL players go from local tournaments all the way up into the World Series.
As a kid growing up in the 1980s in Wayne, New Jersey, Klosek dreamed of one day playing in the Little League World Series. He did not have to go too far for inspiration: Wayne Little League actually won the entire World Series in 1970. A wooden sign of that achievement greeted him daily at his Little League fields.
“I was dying to follow in their footsteps,” says Klosek, a commodities broker and River Oaks resident. “I played for four years and never made it out of district. I wanted to win, but it wasn’t in the cards.”
When the POLL team made it to the regional tournament in Waco, Klosek decided to reach out to his former Little League coach, Joe Gaccione. “He taught me how to play and how to respect and love the game,” says Klosek. “He was my inspiration for why I wanted to coach and give back to these players.” Gaccione was so moved by Klosek reaching out, he actually got in his car and drove from Wayne to Williamsport to cheer on POLL.
Rook and Klosek both say that memories to last a lifetime were made during their stay as Southwest Regional Champions at the Series. Their final game ended in a hard-fought, extra-innings match-up against a team from Georgia. "After Georgia won that night, we three coaches went in and we spoke to the boys, and we thanked them,” says Klosek. “We told them: ‘You gave your heart and soul and time and were rewarded with a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the World Series.’ Rook spoke about how well our kids represented the city of Houston with dignity and as great competitors. That’s a testament to their families, coaches, schools, teachers and themselves.”
And once the competition was over, the POLL team had some fun, taking advantage of the park’s well-known sliding hill that had turned muddy. “The next morning we woke up and all the kids went to the hill and went down the slide,” said Klosek. “I walked over there and it was rainy, and the boys were muddy already. Our second baseman, said, ‘You will do anything for us. I really want you to go down the hill with us.’ So we went down the mud slide, and it was extremely cathartic. Most of the time we adults take it harder than the kids. We even made it on ESPN!”
“Williamsport was a once-in-a-lifetime chance of just being on that field,” says Richie Klosek, a seventh grader at The Kinkaid School. “It means a lot to me. Especially to say I made it to the Little League World Series. Well, that is over-the-top.”
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