WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It was more a dream than anything, because when you looked west toward Hualapai Way, you saw only a dozen or so homes. There was nothing there, nothing to suggest that building a park to house Little League fields made sense.
That was 15 years ago, when Larry Brown was intent on erecting facilities in Las Vegas specific to a certain sport. And at the corner of Durango Drive and Elkhorn Road, on a site hugging one side of U.S. Highway 95, Brown saw the need for youth baseball fields.
Mountain Ridge Little League was in its infancy, having been formed when Lone Mountain Little League outgrew its numbers and split at boundaries of Cheyenne Avenue and Rancho Road.
In the beginning, those for Mountain Ridge played games on two fields at Lied Middle School.
“The school would flood and we would all be out there, sweeping away the mud and water so the kids could play,” Brown said. “The lights would turn on and the bugs would come out. You would have the pitchers constantly swiping away insects from their faces during games.
“It was an auspicious beginning. A bunch of us now chuckle at those memories when we see what this team has done. We never imagined something like this when the league began. It is phenomenal.”
He speaks of those Mountain Ridge players here for the Little League World Series, a team that has been the most impressive of 16 entrants and that plays the Mid-Atlantic champions from Philadelphia on Wednesday at 4:30 PDT on ESPN for a spot in the United States championship game Saturday.
Brown is the District 3 Commissioner and former city councilman for Ward 4 who was instrumental in getting countless youth sports parks built throughout the northwest area of the valley.
He also coached two of this three children in Mountain Ridge Little League and said Mike Akers of Little League District 4 played a significant role in building the league into what it is today.
“We really had no (facilities) out there for baseball or soccer or softball back in those early years,” Brown said. “We always had to travel into Summerlin or to Henderson to play games. First, we completed Children’s Memorial with fields, then Bettye Wilson for soccer and then Mountain Ridge.
“We had the land through the Bureau of Land Management knowing all these parks would be preserved for a public purpose. Getting the Mountain Ridge complex was a priority. What a thrill of a lifetime now for those players and coaches and parents, being the first team from Nevada to make the World Series.
“I’m a firm believer Little League is the last age of innocence for an athlete. No one can take this experience away from them for the rest of their lives.”
RIDGE PLAYERS EXHALE
Mountain Ridge manager Ashton Cave, whose son Dallan is a starting outfielder, made Monday a family day for his players, allowing them to spend it with parents and siblings and others who traveled here for the World Series.
Cave’s wife and their other four children arrived Saturday.
“All of us with Mountain Ridge, from the bottom of our hearts, can’t thank the community of Las Vegas enough for stepping forward and donating so that our family members could enjoy this experience,” Cave said.
Mountain Ridge, which has outscored two World Series opponents 25-4, returns to practice today in preparation for its game Wednesday night.
A crowd in excess of 40,000 is expected at Lamade Stadium to watch Mountain Ridge oppose pitcher Mo’Ne Davis.
“At this point, after a really long summer, the kids are almost practiced out,” Cave said. “What was once three hours is now around one, but they know it’s important to get their work in. It’s hard to get that drive out of them all the time now, but they know to get the results they want, we have to prepare.
“They stayed up late (Sunday evening) after our win, watched the (Mid-Atlantic) team play to see what we’re up against, goofed around like kids, woke up like zombies and we released them to their families. They needed some time to enjoy the moment.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.