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Cumberland Little Leaguers return home to a huge welcome

This was the scene at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island.
This was the scene at Diamond Hill Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island.
Tony Branco

Anytime you see more than a handful of state legislators show up for an event, you know it's a big deal. There was Congressman David Cicilline, gubernatorial candidates Angel Taveras and Clay Pell, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, and Cumberland mayor Daniel McKee. Where was Governor John Chafee? And boo to Cicilline and Taveras for leaving early. But who cares, really? This was not about them. This event was to honor the homecoming of the Cumberland American Little League baseball team.

Manager David Belisle greets fans.
Tony Branco

A healthy crowd of around 400 people showed up at Diamond Hill State Park in Cumberland, Rhode Island to salute and cheer on the Cumberland Boys of Summer. There were so many people in the little park that the arrival of the team was delayed due to parked vehicles blocking the access route to the venue.

When the flatbed truck with the players and coaches, finally, rolled in, the crowd erupted. There was a sign, among many, that read "Cumberland Pride." And there was manager Dave Belisle standing up, cajoling the crowd to get louder, and pointing to his kids.

Belisle would later state that even in Williamsport, Pennsylvania -- the site of the Little League World Series -- the kids were treated like rock stars. The country, in fact, the whole world got caught up in Cumberland's never-say-die attitude. They were an inspiration.

The opening speaker read off emails he had received from various people. One of those emails, he said, came from someone in Australia who commented that his wife cried after hearing Belisle's postgame speech to his players following their elimination game.

Belisle, briefly, addressed that speech which went viral on the internet and brought him national attention. First, he had to ask one of his sons what "viral" meant. As for the speech, he insisted he didn't know ESPN would air it. "I didn't know that mike was on," Belisle began before taking a few seconds to gain his composure, then in a choked up voice he finished, "That speech was meant for THEM (his team)!"

Belisle went on to acknowledge his father, Bill Belisle-- the legendary former coach of the Mount St. Charles hockey team which dominated Rhode Island high school hockey for decades -- who was in the crowd, and credited him for giving him the passion in his heart for coaching. Belisle also diverted any attention away from the publicity he has received by saying the credit belongs to his assistant coaches. "I'm a hockey guy that was asked to coach baseball."

Not only did David Belisle coach his kids, but he coached a nation on the value of sportsmanship and teamwork.