For Cumberland Little League families, sacrifices were all worth it

For Cumberland Little League families, sacrifices were all worth it

Two-thirds of the mothers from the Cumberland American Little League all-star team gather together for a group picture before their sons took the field for their Little League World Series opener against Pearland, Texas. They are, from left in front, Tara Slack, Sue Croteau, Michele Wright; second row, Carla Matos; third row, Nadine Provost and Kristine Davock; and in rear, Leslie Kopack and Kerry Shaw. (Valley Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - In a game known for sacrifice bunts that often go unheralded, the families of the Cumberland American Little League all-stars have been quietly laying down sacrifices that you won't find in a box score.

Ever since Cumberland claimed the state championship last month and moved on to the Eastern Regionals in Bristol, Conn., the parents of the 12 players have found themselves on the move, juggling their everyday lives and trying to alter their schedules around the ones of their team's.

First and foremost, there was the matter of getting permission to take the time off from their various jobs to see their sons in action in Bristol, and - once their sons captured the New England title - Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

There were also the travel plans, the restaurants, and everything else one needs to adjust to enduring a lengthy road trip and living out of a suitcase for almost two weeks.

It's enough to wear out anybody, especially the Cumberland families, but before their team's Little League World Series opener against Pearland, Texas, last Friday night, no one complained about burnout or looked like they missed being back home in Rhode Island.

"The kids make it all worth it," said Tom Bourque, the father of catcher Trey Bourque. "Just seeing their smiles on their faces, they're having the times of their lives right now. We're here to support them and we're glad they have this opportunity."

Bourque was one of several parents who burned some of their vacation time from their occupations to make the 360-mile trip to Williamsport, right after they used up a week's worth to journey almost 110 miles from Cumberland to Breen Field in Bristol.

"You talk to any family, and it doesn't matter," added Karl Provost, the father of center fielder Tyler Provost and a member of the 2010 Cumberland American team that came one win away from reaching the World Series, Nick Provost. "You just have the mindset that this is your vacation, and right now, my family is enjoying it."

"I saved my vacation time this year thinking that there might be a possibility..." said Cumberland manager Dave Belisle, his voice trailing off. "Worst case scenario, you use your vacation like any normal person would, just go to beach or somewhere where you can relax."

Rhonda Thibeault, whose son, outfielder Trey Thibeault, has become somewhat of a fan favorite at the World Series collecting five hits (two of them homers) in his first five at-bats, admitted that she had a difficult time straightening out her and her family's schedule before she headed to Pennsylvania, but you couldn't tell by the wide smile on her face.

"It's been tough, especially with my work schedule and my daughter not going to camp," said Thibeault. "But mainly, it was just work, finding someone to work for me for the last couple of weeks. But everything's OK. And it's all worth it."

In addition to the parents, most of the players' siblings were present, as was a handful of proud grandparents who arrived in Williamsport on Wednesday afternoon and managed to take in the day's festivities.

"The parade was great, and the opening ceremonies brought tears to my eyes," admitted Lorraine Gaboury, Trey Bourque's grandmother, who moved back to Rhode Island two years ago after residing in Florida. "It was just so amazing. It's just so special to be here. It's really great."

Some of the families, such as Thibeault's parents, arrived on Thursday, but most showed up on Wednesday, such as coach Bill Davock, who was unable to be present for the team photograph that was featured in the World Series program insert.

"Bill had to go back home and work a couple of days," said Belisle, whose son, John, is a second baseman. "And (coach) Chris Glod had to do that the last time we came here. I've been very fortunate that my boss and my company has supported me, but for some people, you can only miss so many days."

And you can only spend so much cash on two weeks of travel, as some of the parents noted. But money wasn't an object when they talked about the joy their sons had playing on Little League's biggest stage in front of more than 10,000 fans and on national television.

"You can't put a price on this," said Provost. "We had to get things planned with our family, decide who's coming and things like that. But you'll do anything for your family, and it's a dream come true for everybody to see their kids playing here. It's awesome."

Unfortunately for everyone, Cumberland's hopes for a World Series championship were dashed on Monday night in the team's 8-7 defeat in the losers' bracket to Jackie Robinson West LL of Chicago. But even before Friday's game against Pearland, wins and losses seemed to be the furthest thought in everyone's minds.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Thibeault. "These kids are all winners. They're here, and they're all winners, win or lose. We're very proud of them."

And so what if everyone's housework gets neglected? Who cares if the front lawn looks unkept?

"(My grass) is very tall," Bourque said with a smile. "But that's OK. It can wait."

Four-year-old twins Dylan Slack, left, and Cameron Slack, who are the brothers of Cumberland American first baseman Jayden Struble, get ready to cheer on their team in their team colors.
Lorraine Gaboury proudly shows off a sign with the name of her grandson, Cumberland American catcher Trey Bourque, before last Friday nightÕs Little League World Series opener against Pearland, Texas.
With the fans taking their places on the hill behind Lamade Stadium, Cumberland American takes fielding practice before its game against Pearland, Texas last Friday night. Pearland posted a 6-4 victory that knocked Cumberland American into the losers' bracket.