If you played Little League baseball or softball growing up, you likely have memories – mostly good, maybe a few bad ones, too – that you’ll never forget.

The players on the Westbrook 12-year-old all-star baseball team will remember seeing the Williamsport complex for the first time. They’ll remember the locker rooms and the uniforms and seeing themselves on SportsCenter.

Westbrook High baseball coach John Eisenhart recently recalled the defining moment of his days in the Portland Little League system, during the city championship playoffs 26 years ago.

“I remember I was 9 years old and I only played like three innings ’cause I just wasn’t big enough or good enough, and they put me in right field, which is where you put your worst players,” said Eisenhart, who played with Bonny Eagle coach Shawn Holt and, in later years, would play on a team with his younger brother, Tim. “So, a ball got hit to me, and I remember in my mind there was a fair number of people there, more than a regular season game. I just remember the ball being hit to me. It was a pop-fly and I wasn’t sure if I could make the catch.

I remember, I closed my eyes, and the ball fell in my glove and I fell backwards. I remember the feeling: it was the third out of the inning, and there were runners on base, so if I didn’t make the catch we would’ve lost the game.

“So I remember running back in and just having that rush, that feeling. I think it becomes addictive. And I honestly think that was my first experience of that, and I remember the fans were cheering and everyone’s going crazy and your teammates are huddling around you.

That’s the kind of thing that keeps you coming back. It’s that rush, that adrenaline rush, and I think that’s what, if you talk to a lot of coaches, I think that’s the reason why they coach, that feeling that you have, that adrenaline rush. It’s addictive.”

Holt, who grew up in Portland, remembers switching teams twice and seeing his former team win the championship both times. But there are more important things that still stick out, too.

“You make friends who you know forever,” he said. “It’s different now, but we played baseball together for seven and eight hours a day in the summer.

“I still get together with the friends I made, and we talk about Little League and Babe Ruth and all that stuff.”

South Portland coach Tony DiBiase, who grew up in Westbrook playing on the same field that the current Little Leaguers use, remembers putting his uniform on for the first time.

“I remember putting it on and standing in front of the mirror,” said DiBiase, 51, who went to high school with Westbrook Manager Rick Knight. “I distinctly remember that, thinking, ‘Wow, this is my first real uniform.’ In those days there wasn’t peewee football and AAU basketball. Little League baseball was really the first time that you got a nice uniform and you went out and played with umpires.”

That’s part of the reason DiBiase thinks people have such an attachment to Little League.

“It was such an important part of my development. As a matter of fact, my parents and I were talking about it a couple of days ago. We went over some of the games,” he said. “It got me thinking about Little League and how important it was. To be honest, those games were a little bit more nerve-racking for me as a player than high school and college because that was really your first experience playing on a team.”


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