Advertisement

Baseball: Westminster Little League stars carry fond memories 30 years after their regional run

Baseball: Westminster Little League stars carry fond memories 30 years after their regional run
Larry Alvarez, a member of Westminster Little League's 1989 state championship team, shows off a book of photos (including the team picture) and newspapers clippings recounting the achievement, as well as his catcher's mitt, at his home in Westminster on August 16. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

A group of hand-picked 11- and 12-year-olds from Westminster came together 30 years ago to defend a Little League state championship. None of them could have expected, three decades later, they’d still be the last locals to do it.

Only three of them were back from the 1988 team that rolled through district, section, and state tournament play, and gave Westminster its first title since 1967. One year later, with a host of new names, coaches Dick Dickensheets and Rick Frame hoped for the best.

Advertisement

“This club is not as experienced as last year’s," Dickensheets told the Times in 1989, "but we have power up and down the line and have a good shot of repeating.”

They liked what they saw during tryouts, when the top players from Westminster’s in-house regular season competed for spots on the all-star team. Frame recalled running the practices much like that of a college or pro team, with hitting screens and fungo bats and long evenings.

Different faces dotted the roster, but the goal didn’t change.

“We had a lot of new additions,” said Bill Staub, 42, one of the holdovers from the 1988 championship team. “It just all came together and it was something special. It was one of those teams that did whatever it took to win.”

A scrapbook kept by Larry Alvarez, a member of Westminster Little League's 1989 state championship team, includes a photo of his teammate Billy Staub, and other clipping from the team's achievements.
A scrapbook kept by Larry Alvarez, a member of Westminster Little League's 1989 state championship team, includes a photo of his teammate Billy Staub, and other clipping from the team's achievements. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

The District 2 tournament served as Westminster’s warm-up. The all-stars opened with a 19-0 victory against East Frederick, with Jason Dean tossing a one-hitter and collecting 14 strikeouts.

Larry Alvarez clubbed a three run home run in that game, the start of a very powerful postseason for one of the bigger kids on the team. Alvarez, nicknamed “Peanut,” became one of Westminster’s reliable sluggers.

Blowout wins over Frederick National (12-1) and Taneytown (17-1) followed, and Westminster later met Frederick National again for the district title. Staub had three hits and scattered six from the mound in the all-stars’ 17-2 victory.

“I just remember everything was fun,” Alvarez said. “It never felt like too much pressure.”

Westminster needed three games to take out Hagerstown West End in the sectional championship, then headed to Salisbury for another state tournament. On Aug. 13, 1989, a Sunday afternoon, the local team topped Elkton 4-1 to repeat as state champs.

“As we developed ... our pitching really came a long way,” Frame said. “We broke them down and got their arms strong. We were one of the few teams that threw four pitchers. Most of them had one or two, and they’d throw their arms until they fell off.”

Alvarez left the state tourney with a memorable moment in the final when he smacked a home run in the first inning only to be called out by the umpires when they ruled he didn’t touch home plate.

“I call it the longest triple in Little League history,” Alvarez said in 1989.

Westminster once again represented Maryland in the Eastern Regional, a single-elimination event in Bristol, Connecticut. Alvarez said he remembers the team’s tour of ESPN’s studios more than the specifics of the games.

In 1988, the all-stars lost their first game and didn’t get up for the consolation game that followed. The 1989 squad was determined to advance further.

Advertisement

On Aug. 15, Westminster faced DuBois (Pennsylvania) in its regional opener. Staub pitched and helped his team to a 14-4 victory, with Aaron Goldman’s three-run homer as the big blow. But the game had some significance — DuBois featured Erin Henry, who became the first female in Eastern Regional history to play, pitch, and hit a home run.

Alvarez went 4-for-4 with an RBI in the win, while Staub posted nine strikeouts and settled down after the early innings.

Dickensheets had pegged DuBois as the team to beat in the tourney, but Rhode Island was waiting in the next round. Alavrez remembers Fair North, their opponent, watching the opener and studying Westminster’s tendencies.

Rhode Island used a soft-tossing pitcher who flustered Westminster’s offense, and Fair North put together an 8-0 victory — and a no-hitter at that.

“It wasn’t anything,” Alvarez said. “We just had a bad day.”

Larry Alvarez, a member of Westminster Little League's 1989 state championship team, shares a photo of him catching pitcher/teammate Jason Dean, in a scrapbook recounting the team's achievements from the 1989 season, alongside his childhood catchers mitt.
Larry Alvarez, a member of Westminster Little League's 1989 state championship team, shares a photo of him catching pitcher/teammate Jason Dean, in a scrapbook recounting the team's achievements from the 1989 season, alongside his childhood catchers mitt. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Westminster was disappointed in its performance, but finished with a win when it beat New Hampshire 4-2 in a consolation game.

The all-stars hoped that win would be something to build on for 1990, and for some it was. Alvarez was on a Babe Ruth League 13-year-old team from Westminster that won a state championship.

But the 1989 Little League run was the last of its kind in Carroll to this day.

Alvarez, 42, has a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings and photos of his youth baseball career. The moments are preserved, with stories and pictures showing little sign of age. Alvarez can still fit his left hand into the same catcher’s mitt he used in those days, and said he uses it once in a while.

Frame catches up with some of his former players as much as possible (Dickensheets, Frame’s childhood friend, died in 1998). But life gets in the way of too many reunion opportunities.

Everyone still around from the 1989 team carries their own memories, however.

“I can remember some things like it’s yesterday,” Alvarez said. “A lot of good friends, people we went to school with. ... We were very lucky, I guess, fortunate, blessed. However you want to say it."

Frame said Westminster's success was about more than luck.

“They went way beyond [our] expectations,” he said. “We drilled them hard. The kids adapted to it well and they really learned. Those kids really came a long way with their baseball skills and playing as a team. Real proud of them.”

Frame, 71, said he got out after Westminster removed itself from Little League association years later. Carroll’s lone representative these days is Mount Airy-based Four County, which draws from four different counties.

But the area hasn’t been able to claim a serious Little League World Series contender since Westminster almost made it in 1989.

“It’s crazy how fast it goes,” said Staub, who lives in Inwood, West Virginia. “It’s hard to remember stuff that happened when I was that age, but that’s something that I’ll never forget. ... It was a hell of an experience.”

Advertisement
Advertisement