Jeffrey Keezer of Biddeford Pool throws out the first pitch before Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond’s first game against Northeast Seattle Little League on Thursday. Keezer played on the Augusta Little League team in 1971 that went to the Little League World Series. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Jeffrey Keezer still remembers vividly that 1971 night he and his Augusta East Little League teammates arrived here to participate in the Little League World Series.

“We had left Connecticut right after our (regional championship) game on a bus,” he said. “We arrived here about 11 o’clock, midnight. The stadium lights were all on and the bus driver stopped the bus at the top of the hill so we could all look down at it.

“None of us had ever seen anything like that in our life. It was beautiful.”

Keezer, 64, returned to Lamade Stadium Thursday afternoon. And it wasn’t just to watch the Gray-New Gloucester/Raymond Little League team play in its first game in the 2023 LLWS.

No, he was here to throw out the first pitch.

“Hopefully I’m going to get it across the plate,” said Keezer, who now lives in Biddeford Pool. “I don’t want to bounce it or throw it over the catcher’s head. I’ve been practicing, throwing off a Little League mound.”


He did fine. A lefty, Keezer went into his windup just in front of the pitcher’s mound and fired a strike on the outside corner.

“I absolutely had flashbacks,” said Keezer. “The introductions, the lineups, the whole nine yards. I was getting nervous.”

Gray-NG lost the game, 10-0 to Northeast Seattle in a game called after four innings because of the mercy rule. Gray-NG will play an elimination game at 2 p.m. Saturday against Media, Pennsylvania.

Keezer, who came here with a four-generation family contingent that included his 84-year-old father, Gordon, and 11-year-old granddaughter, Olivia Collins (who was worried he would throw out his back and was quite happy he didn’t), has fond memories of this place. In 1971, he pitched the only game Augusta East won, a 1-0 decision over Kentucky. Augusta East went 1-2 that year.

“Pitching in front of 20,000 people, that was one hell of an experience,” he said.

Keezer looked around the concourse area of the Little League complex and noted all the differences of 52 years.


Volunteer Stadium didn’t exist. Nor did the concessions area he was standing in.

“My parents drove a pick-up truck that pulled a trailer,” he said. “They parked right about where we’re standing.”

The dormitories are better now, though the pool and ping-pong tables have remained.

“We did a lot of swimming,” he said.

Keezer spoke to the Gray-NG players a couple of hours before Thursday’s game, telling them to keep calm, play their game and have fun. He knows it can be stressful.

“It was an absolute shock to our system, coming from Maine,” he said. “We had never gone anywhere before.”


SEATTLE PITCHER Trey Kirchoff drew rave reviews for his performance against Gray-New Gloucester. He allowed only one hit, a single by Alex Hanlon, and struck out eight, walking one. Most of his strikeouts came via a nasty curveball that had Gray-NG’s batters lunging.

“I don’t think we’ve seen a pitcher who could consistently throw a curve like that,” said Gray-NG Manager Brad Shelley.

At one point, according to ESPN, Kirchoff had thrown 16 breaking balls, with 15 for strikes.

GRAY-NEW GLOUCESTER is the only team in the 20-team World Series with a 14-man roster. All others have 12. With the use of the continuous batting order, each player on the roster gets up to the plate. That meant on Thursday, no one in Gray-NG’s batting order got a second at-bat.

Even so, Shelley wouldn’t have it any other way.

It was the first time that had happened to Gray-NG. And, he said, having 14 players is a chance “to give two more kids the opportunity to experience the all-star experience and I would say look at where they are. There are two more kids here (at the Little League World Series) who are getting this experience and they still get to play one more game here. No other team has that.”

SEATTLE GOT a boost early Thursday when the team received a call from a couple of Seattle Mariners. Manager Scott Servais and catcher Cal Raleigh gave the team a little pep talk.

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