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Monday, May 2, 2016

Porter leads New Castle into Williamsport

Friday, August 17, 2012

It may be called the Little League World Series, but for anyone who has watched the intense action over the years, there's nothing little about it.

This year, Putnam County residents have one more reason to set its sights on Williamsport, PA -- and his name is Tim Porter.

Porter, a 1987 graduate of South Putnam High School and a member of the 1986 state championship football team, serves as manager of the New Castle Little League that will be representing Indiana.

When Porter described what it was like to be playing on such a grand stage, the first thing he noted was the awesome view his team has when they wake up each morning.

"Our dorm rooms here overlook the diamond -- the right field of the diamond. You wake up every day and look out that window and you think 'Oh my God, how did I get here."

Porter noted people laughed at him last year when he said the team would make a run at getting to the Little League World Series. It looks like the manager will have the last laugh now.

According to Porter, New Castle might not have been the best team in the field in its previous tournaments, but they got the job done when it counted.

"You grow up around these kids and you see them come up through the Little League program from the time they're seven and you think you have something special there," Porter explained. "You win some tournaments and stuff, but you really have no idea how good they really are.

"I still don't know if we were the best team in the state of Indiana. We played a pretty good Jeffersonville team. We might not have been the best team in the Great Lakes, but we're here. And on those days we were the best team."

New Castle earned its trip to Williamsport by defeating Kentucky in the Great Lakes Division of the regional tournament Aug. 10. Instead of making their way around town celebrating its win, the team was on its way to Williamsport the following day at 12:30 p.m.

The team has spent much of the week practicing and navigating the numerous media requests for interviews coming its way.

Another unique aspect of playing in the Little League World Series is the fact teams from different counties are able to interact and the New Castle team is taking full advantage of its time.

"The thing the kids like the most is there's a rec room here and we're playing ping pong maybe three hours a day," Porter said. "And just interacting with all the other teams especially the teams from Mexico, Uganda and Japan. We're spending a lot of time with them."

Even with the team more than 500 miles away, the New Castle community is going all out for the game. Porter summed up the community's support in one word.

"Unbelievable," he said. "There's a donut shop in town that came out with a Great Lakes donut and they made 400 of them the first day and they sold out in 15 minutes.

"There's a T-shirt shop in town that the most orders they've received on shirts of any kind was 600. They surpassed 600 orders on our shirts in 48 hours."

The skipper said the outpouring of support the team is getting from its community is nothing short of amazing.

He described how there will be an 80-foot screen at home plate on its field in New Castle for fans to gather and watch the game tonight. They are expecting 2,500 people to show up.

Porter also spoke about a story in his hometown paper. A reporter was speaking with random people in the community and one woman said she couldn't wait for her son to be able to play Little League baseball. When the reporter asked how old her son was, she told him nine months old.

New Castle might be know for hoops since it houses the largest high school gymnasium in the world. But after its Little League team's success, the town has baseball fever.

The manager said he spoke to the town's mayor and was told that when someone drives down a road, kids are tossing a baseball at every fourth or fifth house.

Porter is obviously no stranger to performing well in big games. He was part of the South Putnam '86 championship football team, so he know what it takes to be a champion.

As with any player who has played under him, Porter acknowledged the impact that former South Putnam football coach, and Hall of Famer, Mark Wildman had on him.

"The thing that was nice about all of the coaching staff, especially coach Wildman, he never freaked out about anything," he said. "He had a very calm demeanor about him. There were times he raised his voice when he needed to, but it wasn't a dictator that was coaching that team."

After thinking about it for a moment, he noted the similarities between his current team and his team from that fabled '86 season.

"We're kind of that same way," Porter confessed. "I don't know if that's me doing that, the kids or what. We were the last seed to get into our state tournament and we had to have a team win and a team lose and this to happen and that to happen for us to get in. We got to the Central Region and we were the last seed there.

"We're down 5-1 in the first inning of that game. I just told the kids 'Hey, we're not going to score five runs in this inning, but let's chip away. Let's get one here, let's get two there' and that's what we did. We just chipped away at it," he added.

He spoke about the elevated level of play that comes along with competing in the Little League World Series. Porter said his team watched a pitcher from Japan during a skills test throw 82 MPH. If you equate that out to the major league level, the pitcher was throwing a mind boggling 102 MPH.

Up first for New Castle will be the Northeast Division champs Gresham from Greshman, OR. Porter acknowledged the Gresham team hits the ball well and has some good pitching, but noted his squad has the skill and desire to come away with a win.

Fans can watch the game live on ESPN at 8 p.m. tonight.