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America’s ‘Dream Team’ has Harrison Co. roots

America’s ‘Dream Team’ has Harrison Co. roots
America’s ‘Dream Team’ has Harrison Co. roots
Wesley Jenkins steps off the Toonerville II trolley at Monday's celebration. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

The Arizona Diamondbacks rode the arms of pitchers Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson to capture the World Series championship last season.
The 2002 Little League World Series Champion Valley Sports team, which defeated Japan, 1-0, on Sunday night in Williamsport, Pa., used the same recipe for success.
With the pitching prowess of Aaron Alvey and Zach Osborne, some timely hitting and stingy defense, the Louisville-based Little League team rolled through the international Little League tournament with a exquisite 24-0 record and won the championship in front of over 40,000 fans and millions on TV.
The 12-member squad was picked from only 26 12-year-olds who compete in the Valley Sports Little League, making the odds of such a feat even more remarkable.
Everyone, it seems, has Valley Sports fever.
When ESPN and other news channels first showed the Great Lakes Region champions on television, many Harrison Countians did a double-take. Wasn’t that North Harrison grad Troy Osborne on the screen? The same Troy Osborne who played catcher for the Cougars under head coach Danny Schmidt and was a Golden Glove Award winner at the position all four years? The same Troy Osborne that was a two-time selection to the All-Mid-Southern Conference team?
That’s him. And, yes, that’s his son, Zach, who attended North Harrison a few weeks into sixth grade before moving to Louisville over a year ago.
The team returned home Monday night to a rousing welcome by more than 10,000 fans at the old Cardinal Stadium in Louisville.
“Before we came over here, the kids were like, ‘Do we really have to go do this?’ and really just wanted to go home and go to bed. But when we pulled up and saw what was going on, they really woke up. It’s been pretty awesome,” Coach Osborne said.
“They are a mature group of kids that wanted to be good ballplayers. They listened to the coaches and would do anything we’d ask of them, and vice versa. I think that’s what makes this team so special. There’s a tremendous amount of respect on both sides.”
Osborne said the most memorable part of the whole adventure — besides winning — is being able to share the experience with his son.
“He works hard every day at this game, and he deserves it. Not a lot of dads can be a part of something like this. To be in Williamsport, if you like baseball or love baseball, that is heaven. To walk down that hill and see that little stadium is indescribable. I’ll cherish it.”
North Harrison head baseball coach Danny Schmidt remembers Osborne as a “pretty good defensive catcher.”
Osborne batted .369 (3rd on team), had 26 RBI (1st), and three home runs in his senior season for the Cougars.
“It’s an honor for anyone out of our program to do well like that, and we’re real happy for Troy,” Schmidt said. “In my eyes, Zach was probably the M.V.P. of the whole thing. He pitches, he plays good defense, he hit. He just did it all.”
Zach’s mom, formerly Lisa Green, is a Corydon Central High School graduate. Lisa’s father, Larry Green, lives here, but for almost two weeks he called Williamsport “home.”
“I was there for 12 days, got back (Monday) about 5 p.m. and decided I was so tired that I couldn’t make the trip over to Louisville for the celebration,” Green said.
“I wouldn’t have missed the World Series for the world. I racked up a hotel bill of $1,785, not to mention food and trinkets, but it was all worth it to see Zach and the boys win the World Series.”
Green said Williamsport is to Little League baseball what Augusta is to golf.
“The place is so manicured, and everyone was so nice. I did not meet a single person that wasn’t as nice as they could be. Even the security guards and ushers were very friendly, even when they were being negative,” he said.
“There has been so much been going on in America in a negative light. People of America need something very positive to focus on. All you hear about is terrorism, invading Iraq, and kids being abducted. For these 12-year-old boys to do what they did in Pennsylvania is a dose of feel-good for Louisville, Kentucky, the U.S.A., and the whole world. It’s just amazing.”
But that’s not the only Harrison County connection for the newest “America’s Team.”
Wesley Jenkins, an outfielder who got the opening hit and scored a run in the Aug. 17, 4-1 Pool Play win over California, is the son of Jean and David Jenkins of Shively. Before she married, Jean lived on a farm south of Ramsey with her parents, Tony and Judy Gettlefinger.
It goes without saying: the elder Gettlefingers have been glued to the television the past few weeks, looking for any sign of their grandson.
“I think the whole thing is great,” Judy said. “From the time he was little, he’s wanted to throw a ball. I like the way Louisville has embraced the team and the way everyone is covering them.
“We’ve gone through a lot of video tapes, and I’ve done a scrap book and cut out articles about the team for (Wesley). I know his other grandmother is doing the same thing.”
Tony Gettlefinger, who was playing golf the morning after the big win, had a chance to talk to Jenkins after the game via cell phone. Judy said there wasn’t much to the conversation, however.
“He was pretty quiet. I think it all happened so quickly for them. I don’t think they realize how big of a deal it was to win. They knew it was an honor, I’m sure,” she said. “He wants to go fishing with his grandpa, so I can’t wait to see what he has to say about the whole thing.”
The Gettlefingers have appreciated all the phone calls and interest surrounding the play of their grandson.
“We heard from people we haven’t heard from in a while, and others just want to know which player is ours. It’s been really neat,” Judy said.
15 minutes of fame will last a lot longer
The joy ride will continue Monday as the team takes part in a 10:30 a.m. parade from Pleasure Ridge Park High School to Louisville Slugger Field for a ceremony that is set to begin at noon. Valley Sports will then be recognized by the Louisville Bats before a 1:15 game against the Toledo Mud Hens.
The Little Leaguers have also been asked to be honorary grand marshals for the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Pegasus Parade on May 1, 2003 and hope to meet with President George W. Bush during a campaign stop in Louisville on Sept. 5.