ENID, Okla. —
When the team bus rolled into the Ramada Inn parking lot Thursday evening, shrieks and cheers suddenly were heard and nearly a dozen kids raced toward the bus carrying signs and cheering.
The rock star-like greeting clearly lifted the spirits of the travel-weary passengers who rode the bus 800 miles from Madison, Wis., over a two-day period with a stopover in Kansas City.
Their smiles told the story and the gleam in the eyes of their young, sign-waving admirers — bearing handwritten messages such as “We (heart) Madison,” “Go Madison”, “WolfPack” and “Angels (heart) WolfPack — made the long trip suddenly more bearable.
It was likely a scene played out another nine times across Enid over the past couple of days leading up to the 10-team National Junior College Division II World Series that is being contested at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
The players and coaches from Madison Area Technical College departed the bus and immediately exchanged high-fives as the youngsters, members of the Angels 10-under baseball team, lined up to greet them.
WolfPack head coach Mike Davenport was one of the first ones off the bus and greeted by the youngsters. Or was he greeting them?
“This is great,” he said. “It helps at the end of the long trip and we all look forward to it.”
This is the second-straight year Davenport’s team — making its fifth overall appearance in the World Series — has been hosted by the Angels. Davenport wasn’t sure who enjoyed the welcome more, the Angels or the WolfPack players. “I think it was equal,” he said.
“They had such a great time last year with the team,” said Angels coach Ryan Stewart. “They were excited to see the players.”
The Angels will be interacting again this year with their older counterparts from Madison with a cookout and maybe some whiffle ball. “It’s a lot of fun, that’s for sure,” Stewart said.
After the team fully embarked from the bus and made its way into the hotel, they were led to a poolside pizza party where members of both teams downed fare from Little Caesars, while parents and coaches alike beamed and took photos.
“So many good things come out of this,” said Brendan Voitik, another Angels coach. “We have a day on the field with them. It means a lot.”
It also meant a lot to Madison sophomore centerfielder Bryce Barsness, who was part of last year’s team that played in the World Series.
“This is really nice,” Barsness said. “I remember most of them, they’re a little bigger now.” Barsness, who is batting .304 entering the series, said the ride from Madison was long and tiring, but seeing the Angels was a nice way to end the long trip.
“I was taking pictures from the bus,” he said. “It’s pretty special.”
Over the next several days much will be written in these pages about the games that will take place during the Series, because, after all, the objective for all 10 teams is to win a championship. But it is also pretty clear the Series has taken on a meaning beyond the games for the community and its annual World Series visitors.
However, not everyone is completely overwhelmed. Kadence Stewart, 8, a centerfielder for the Angels, was keeping it all in perspective Thursday. When asked what was the best part of the day, meeting the team or having pizza, he answered without hesitation, “the pizza.”
Well, he has a point. Pizza is pretty cool.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.