ATHENS — The Aston Middletown Little League 9-11 year old All-Stars cruised to a regional championship in Massachusetts last week.
That name might sound familiar to Valley baseball fans as that same team went on an incredible run to win the Pennsylvania state tournament title in Athens late last month.
The group from Aston Middletown, which is in Delaware County, Pa., spent an entire week in Athens during the state tournament — and they left with a strong connection to the Valley area.
“I tell you what, this town is great. The restaurants we’ve been to, the people that run this tournament, Mike (Patton), they’ve been great to us. They were so accommodating at the hotel, we stayed at the Comfort Inn, they were great. Every restaurant, every waitress, they treated us like gold. They rolled out the red carpet for us,” said Aston Middletown manager Chuck Fulker.
The players from AMLL and all the teams who were in Athens for the state tournament got to experience everything the Valley — and Bradford County — has to offer.
“We hit the (Troy Fair), we hit Round Top, we were swimming in the streams and river, going fishing,” said Fulker, who had a favorite when it came to getting his breakfast. “We hit Becky’s. I’ve got to give a shoutout to Becky’s Diner in Waverly, I tell you what, best breakfast we’ve ever had.”
East Side, which is out of West Chester and lost to AMLL in the finals, also had a great time in Athens.
“Athens put on a great tournament. Their staff, the directors, the field maintenance, the people here have been great to us. They were very welcoming, they were cheering for us, had our backs and gave us a great trip and experience for the boys,” said East Side manager Gary Canuso.
East Side parent Matt DiGiulio echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been awesome. This field is amazing, the crowd is awesome. A first-class experience with these guys. We really appreciate being up here and everything we’ve gotten to have with these boys,” said DiGiulio whose son, Ty, was the starting catcher for East Side.
Canuso said the Chester County suburbs where they are from is “kind of like this, just a couple hours away.”
“We enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s all baseball here. It’s a good baseball town. It was just a great experience for the boys to come and play (here),” Canuso added.
Former Athens Little League President Mike Patton was in charge of the state tournament as well as the 9-11 sectional tournament which was held just prior to states. Patton admitted it was a lot of work, but praised all the volunteers who made it possible.
“It’s been tough but there’s been a good crew from Athens here. The grounds crew has been phenomenal,” said Patton, who also gave a shoutout to Kyle Raupers for organizing the umpires for the state tournament.
The field at Athens Little League also received excellent reviews from the players.
“It was fun. It’s a cool field. Luckily, there’s no bad hops here,” AMLL’s Luke Fulker said.
Patton said he heard only good things about the condition of the Athens field.
“There’s been a couple teams who have said they played in Williamsport, and the only field they played on that’s nicer than this is Williamsport,” he said.
When it came to the boys from Aston Middletown, getting a chance to spend an entire week in hotels with their friends was an experience they will always remember.
“It was amazing. Just being at the hotel with my friends, playing around and then coming to do business with baseball,” said Joey Thompson.
“We love hotels. It’s so fun. Sometimes you get yelled at, sometimes you don’t,” added Luke Fulker.
Athens Little League wanted to make sure to give all the players, coaches and families a great experience in the Valley, including hosting a welcome picnic prior to the first night of games. To do that, they would need support from local businesses and the community — and, once again, the Valley came through in the clutch.
“It’s been great, just fantastic,” Patton said. “The community has always supported Little League. I mean if we needed a dime and they had a nickel, they’d go borrow a nickel to give us a dime.”