Coach Belisle joins '76 CHS baseball team in Friday's Night of Legends
Coach Belisle joins '76 CHS baseball team in Friday's Night of Legends
CUMBERLAND - During his three-plus decades coaching the Mount St. Charles Academy boys' hockey team with his father, Bill, as well as the summers he spent as a manager for his four sons' Little League baseball teams, Dave Belisle has made countless speeches to his players.
He's made the speeches that motivated his teams when they were losing in a playoff series or getting ready to take on a formidable opponent. He's read riot acts after a disappointing loss or performance. He's instructed and offered strategy before a huge game or during a break or time-out in one of them.
And Belisle has made the speeches that all coaches hope they never need to make, but almost always have to give - the speech that's delivered after a long playoff run has come to a somber halt.
He gave one of those speeches this past August after a Little League World Series elimination game in Williamsport, Pa., against Jackie Robinson West L.L. of Chicago - an entertaining, hard-fought game that saw his spirited Cumberland American team come up short in an 8-7 defeat that was televised live on ESPN and captured the attention of not just the community and the southeastern part of New England, but also the entire nation.
After the game, Belisle and his assistant coaches quietly brought their players out to right field, unaware that a couple of ESPN cameras also followed them to the outfield. There, he proceeded to give his players a heartwarming, uplifting speech that seemed to be scripted for a sports movie, but came straight from his heart.
The speech deeply moved his players. It moved his coaches, Bill Davock and Matt Wright, and as Belisle kept his emotions in check, it moved him.
And as Belisle surprisingly found out the next day, the speech not only also moved the nationally televised audience that hung on to every word he spoke, but in less than 24 hours, it spread like wildfire on YouTube, where a three-minute-and-39-second video of his speech collected more than 126,000 hits.
"Chicago just advanced to the championship, and you would think ESPN would be paying attention to them, not me talking to my boys," Belisle said. "I was upset at first that it went out there because I wanted to just talk to my kids (without the cameras). But actually, it was a very good message to the people out there that, you know what, this is good. You can play this way, have fun, be respectful, and still come out on top."
Belisle talked a little about his experiences with his all-star team during a small gathering at the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln to talk about the 3rd annual Night of Legends ceremony that will take place on Friday, Oct. 24, (at The Dugout on Cray Street) and honor Belisle and the 1976 state champion Cumberland High baseball team.
"It was pretty easy," James Carney, one of the Nights of Legends' committee members, said of the decision to choose Belisle. "In two out of the last four years, he's taken the team to Williamsport. We were thinking, 'Who's the most logical person for this year?' and obviously, David came to mind right away."
Belisle will attend the event with his family, players, and coaches, as well as his Cumberland American squad from the 2011 season that also reached the Little League World Series. It's the only way he'd want to attend it and accept this honor.
"I had a group of boys that was just a tremendous bunch of athletes with an unbelievable attitude," remarked Belisle. "They've really given me more recognition than I deserve, and an award like this in Cumberland is definitely something I'm going to share with the people I was able to share my experiences with.
"It's a great award. It's certainly not an award for me, but it's a great award I can accept knowing that I've been very fortunate and blessed to have the team I coached."
Once Cumberland American's run in the World Series ended, Belisle's newfound national fame didn't, and it made him a little uneasy, as did the attention his family received when his wife, Nancy, who is battling colon cancer and remained at home for the first two games of the World Series, was flown in on Monday before the game against Jackie Robinson West.
"It was getting to be too much about me," said Belisle. "I didn't want this to turn into an individual thing. Especially with the situation with my wife. I didn't want to put her through the notoriety.
"But I think she's done wonderful considering the attention. Now everybody knows about it, but I think it's good. I think it's good that the fact that people are aware that she's strong and our team knew about her condition and love her very much."
Belisle admitted that the hoopla from his speech has died down "just recently, but I still get letters, and I must have received at least 350 letters from all over the country, just (from people) saying how they respected our team and what we did for baseball."
On Nov. 22, Belisle will be back in the national spotlight again in St. Louis to receive the Stan Musial Award for Sportsmanship at the Peabody Opera House. Produced by the National Sportsmanship Foundation and named after the late St. Louis Cardinals baseball great and Hall of Fame outfielder/first baseman, the honor celebrates the greatest moments of sportsmanship from around the country and recognizes individuals and their stories of character, kindness, selflessness, and integrity.
Among the people who will be honored alongside Belisle is one of the new members of baseball's Hall of Fame, ex-New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who will receive the Stan Musial Lifetime Achievement Award for Sportsmanship, and Mo'ne Davis, the female Little League pitcher from Philadelphia who was the first girl to earn a win and pitch a shutout in Little League World Series history. She will receive the Stan Musial Award for Extraordinary Character.
"It's a pretty big award that's given out annually," said Belisle. "Joe Torre's also getting an award and we're supposed to be on the same stage together. That would be nice. It would be an honor."
Before heading to St. Louis, Belisle and a few of his players will drive to Mount St. Charles Academy on Monday, Nov. 3 to join a town hall forum on sportsmanship, leadership, and honorable competition in youth sports called "The Way You Play Matters" in the school's gymnasium. They will be joined by the moderator, former ESPN broadcaster Chuck Wilson, as well as student-athlete leaders from Mount and student advisory board members from the RIIL.
His team also recently received a special achievement award from Citizens Bank "that they've been giving out for a number of years and usually give out to an employee or somebody in Cumberland," added Belisle. "With the award, they give a $2,400 donation to a nonprofit organization. I asked my coaches and then I brought it up to the kids, and I said, 'We have to give this to someone who needs it,' so we decided to give it to the Boys & Girls Club."
"That was great that David and his team did that," said Carney. "He named the Boys & Girls Club a day or so before I told him about this, so it was independent that he actually named the club not knowing about this award."
Also being honored on the Night of Legends is the Clippers' 1976 baseball team, which went 18-3 (including the postseason) to win the sixth of the program's eight state championships.
"It's pretty cool that I'll get to share this (event) with a Cumberland High School team that a lot of those guys I played Little League baseball with and played high school against," said Belisle. "One of those guys, Brad Bowe, I coached against in Little League."
Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased at the door or at the Boys & Girls Club. A sandwich and salad buffet will be included in the night's festivities, and for more information, contact the Boys & Girls Club at 401-333-4850.