Steve Keener is a busy guy these days.
That's to be expected, of course.
The Holy Grail of youth sports, the Little League World Series, is in full swing in South Williamsport.
Steve Keener, the CEO and president of Little League, speaks during ceremonies prior to the start of the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest game on Monday evening.
BILL CROWELL/THE EXPRESS
Fans are pouring in by the thousands to see the world's best Major baseball teams showcase their skills. It is the busiest time at the LLWS complex.
Keener, the CEO and president of Little League, is enjoying every moment.
Not only does he make sure everyone enjoys their trip to Southside, but he also gets to reminisce about the days he played Little League in the local area.
A native of Williamsport, Keener moved to the Woolrich area when he was 12-years-old and played Major baseball for the Woolrich team in 1969, which was a part of the Jersey Shore Little League at the time.
"I had a former sports person from the Lock Haven Express email me recently and say how proud I must be being a former Lock Haven little leaguer," Keener said. "I told him, I can't take claim for that because I played in the Jersey Shore Little League at the time."
As a Jersey Shore all-star, the LL president played against the local teams at the time - Lock Haven and Flemington.
Those who know their history know that Newberry was a participant in the Little League World Series that year, the last District 12 team to make it to South Williamsport.
"Our team, we played for the Woolrich squad in the Jersey Shore Little League," Keener said. "In the all-star games, I played for Jersey Shore all-star team. We beat Lock Haven in our first game in 1969, and then we lost to Flemington the next game. Flemington lost to Newberry the next game, and they ended up coming to the World Series that year."
It is something people can always talk about. Remembering contests at the old fields in Clinton and Lycoming counties, talking about former players and umpires and familiar faces.
The way things used to be.
Of course, it isn't the way things are now.
Keener has kept a close eye on how things are going, but even he can feel a special connection to the Keystone Kraze that is sweeping the county and state right now.
It is hard to miss the sea of blue that fills the stadium seating area and the two hills that face Howard J. Lamade Stadium. The navy blue and red that the Keystone youngsters sport now is all over the place, along with the familiar Duke blue shirts with white Keystone lettering on it that so many people have proudly worn all during the summer months.
Keener can even say he saw the Clinton County boys when they were still in the original Keystone blue in early August.
"Jerry Fisher, who has been a friend for a long time, just on a whim called me the Thursday before they played (in State College)," Keener said. "He asked if I was busy that Friday. He was wondering if I would come up for the championship game against West Point. I told him that he had done a magnificent job running the tournament, so I was happy to go up. I think I brought them bad luck. I should have stayed away because they lost that game."
Maybe so. But as the story goes, the Keystoners earned a trip to Bristol, Conn. anyway. And the locals sure made everyone proud of what they did there, going undefeated en route to their LLWS berth.
The big escorted parade that followed, Keener wasn't around for that.
He was in Indianapolis at the Midwest and Great Lakes regionals, overseeing the tournaments in Indiana.
That doesn't mean he didn't have an ear and eye on what was going on back home.
"I wasn't here when they arrived, but I'm sure it was a big thing," he said. "I was actually in Indianapolis. You can feel it. There is a hype, or an interest. It is nice for the kids and the community and the coaches who have had a long summer."
It has been a long few months, but the journey isn't over yet.
Even when it is over, whenever that may be, Keener will always remember this year.
This Little League World Series was overtaken by Clinton County faithful and fans from other counties who can say they saw the hometown boys give it their best in South Williamsport.
"For the local area, there is probably a lot of Keystone fans that weren't necessarily Keystone fans before the Little League World Series started. That is pretty typical of any community that ends up coming to the World Series," Keener said. "They start out in their local district, and it is mostly families and parents and maybe a few interested people here watching. They take the next step to the sectional and state tournament, and it grows a little bit. You go to the regional tournament, and it starts to sink in that maybe the team will have a chance. The community starts buzzing about it a little more. Once they won in Bristol, you could start to sense it a little more."
Truly something to remember, something to talk about.
For a long, long time to come.
Kim Moerschbacher is a sports writer at The Express and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.