Postcards from Fargo: ‘We’ll have to get our mojo working’
By Mark Wineka
FARGO, N.D. ó More than an hour before the scheduled start of Friday night’s opening round game, star first baseman Trey Holmes of Rowan County had his right spike off and his socks turned down.
†† A stadium trainer was bent over Holmes’ foot, giving it serious attention.
†† Holmes injured the foot at the Southeast Regional in Sumter, S.C., and even though Rowan hadn’t played since Monday, Jimmy Holmes said his son’s foot wasn’t responding as well as the family had hoped.
†† The thunderstorm that rained out Rowan County’s first game in the American Legion World Series may have been a blessing in disguise.
†† Despite the injury, Holmes was penciled in Saturday morning’s starting lineup.
†† As with most parents of the Rowan Legion baseball players, Karen and Allen Troutman have made financial sacrifices to be with their son Preston as the team has traveled to the state tournament in Greenville, N.C., the Southeast Regional in Sumter and now the World Series in Fargo.
†† “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Karen Troutman, who made the long trip to North Dakota with Allen and their younger son, Jason. “Someone told me that one in 400,000 players make it this far.”
†† Karen Troutman has one tiny regret about the long season, though she’s not complaining. She feels sometimes that her son, a rising senior at East Rowan High, hasn’t really had a summer vacation.
†† Asked about the team’s chances in the World series, Karen Troutman said, “I’m just hoping they take it all.
†† “I know there are a lot of good ball teams here.”
†† After almost countless games and years of watching their sons and grandsons play baseball together, it’s natural that families forge strong friendships.
†† Such is the case for Cindy and Larry Little, parents of Casey, and Julie and Dale Litaker, parents of Alex.
†† The Littles, who also brought Cindy’s dad, Ray Sansbury, had to take a route through Tennessee and St. Louis on their way to Fargo. The Litakers took a West Virginia-Ohio path.
†† As both families traveled, they kept in constant contact through text messages.
†† “It was a race to see who gets here first,” Julie Litaker said.
†† For the record, the Litakers crossed the tape in Fargo about 10 minutes ahead of the Littles.
†† Players have their superstitions. So do their families in the stands.
†† Larry Little has been banned by family and friends from wearing any T-shirt that mentions Rowan County as a state or regional champ. He apparently wore a state championship T-shirt during Rowan’s one loss at the Southeast Regional, and he reports that he’ll never make that mistake again.
†† Julie Litaker and Cindy Little also make sure they have Tootsie Pops for their baseball watching, and it’s especially lucky if the wrappers include Indian figures on them.
†† Cindy found Indians on two Tootside Pop wrappers before the state championship game, and Julie has kept them folded neatly in her purse ever since.
†† Player Alex Litaker has some superstitions, too. He doesn’t talk to one of Rowan County’s biggest fans, Jenny Fox, before the game. The last time Litaker gave Fox a hug before the game started, Rowan lost.
†† So now, Litaker might acknowledge Fox with a nod, but definitely no hug until after a Rowan victory.
†† Alex Litaker also likes to have five bags of sunflower seeds for each game.
†† Do the Litakers and Littles have to sit in a particular place during a game?
†† Julie Litaker said they would have to scope out Newman Outdoor Field in the early innings of Game 1 and determine the best spot on the Rowan side.
†† “We’ll have to get our mojo working, then we’ll know,” she said.
†† Ray Sansbury, the grandfather of Rowan player Casey Little, enjoyed a great thrill Friday night as the Rowan fans were waiting for their opening round game, which was rained out.
†† In the stadium concourse, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller was signing autographs, and Sansbury waited his turn in line for a chance to speak to Feller.
†† As a kid, the 82-year-old Sansbury served as batboy for the Washington (Pa.) minor league team, which included future Cardinal stars Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.
†† Feller was impressed, and the men exchanged notes on getting old. Sansbury loved Feller’s pitch on the matter:
†† “He said, ‘The name of the game is keep above the sod.'”
†† Many of the families who drove to Fargo from Salisbury took a path through Chicago.
†† They did not like the experience, especially Jim Gobbel, grandfather of Rowan player Parker Gobbel.
†† Even though he missed rush-hour traffic, “I don’t want any part of Chicago again,” he said.