If the Little Leaguers of Cumberland, R.I., wanted to hang their heads Monday night, few would have blamed them.
After winning the New England region and punching its ticket to Williamsport, Pa., the Rhode Island team was sent home from the Little League World Series in cruel fashion — a heartbreaking 8-7 loss to Illinois.
Yet as the Rhode Island 12- and 13-year-olds gathered around their coach, Dave Belisle, after the loss, the overall mood wasn’t one of doom and gloom but of pride.
That’s because Belisle gave his kids a heartfelt speech, applauding them for their efforts and urging them to keep their heads held high.
“The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is that this is the last time I’m going to coach you guys,” Belisle told his team. “But I’m going to bring back with me, the coaching staff is going to bring back, you guys are going to bring back that no one other team can provide — that’s pride. Pride.”
Illinois advances to play Texas on Tuesday in the next round. Rhode Island packs its bags and heads home, but — as the coach told his team — does so with memories it never will forget.
Check out Belisle’s full speech below. It’s definitely worth a listen.
Here’s the text of the speech, which was transcribed by the Providence Journal:
“Heads up high. Heads up high. I’ve gotta see your eyes, guys. There’s no disappointment in your effort — in the whole tournament, the whole season. It’s been an incredible journey. We fought. Look at the score – 8-7, 12-10 in hits. We came to the last out. We didn’t quit. That’s us! Boys, that’s us!
“The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is that this is the last time I’m going to coach you guys. But I’m going to bring back with me, the coaching staff is going to bring back, you guys are going to bring back that no one other team can provide — that’s pride. Pride.
“You’re going to take that for the rest of your lives, what you provided for the town of Cumberland. You had the whole place jumping, right? You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. OK?
“You want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys who don’t quit. They like guys who play the game the right way. If everyone would play baseball like the Cumberland Americans, this would be the greatest game.
“The lessons you guys have learned along the journey, you’re never going to forget. We’re going to have some more fun. We have two more days of fun. When you walk around this ballpark in the next couple of days, they’re going to look at you and say:
“Hey, you guys were awesome!’ “Everybody has said: You guys are awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Absolutely awesome.
“It’s OK to cry, because we’re not going to play baseball together any more. But we’re going to be friends forever. Friends forever. Our Little League careers have ended on the most positive note that could ever be. OK? Ever be.
“There’s only going to be one team that’s going to walk out of here as World Series champions. Only one. We got down to the nitty-gritty. We’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second. In the world! Right?
“So, we need to go see our parents, because they’re so proud of you. One more thing. I want a big hug. I want everyone to come in here for one big hug. One big hug, then we’re going to go celebrate. Then we’re going to go back home to a big parade.
“I love you guys. I’m gonna love you forever. You’ve given me the most precious moment in my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time – a looooong time. I’m getting to be an old man. I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys. You’re the boys of summer.
“So, for the last time, we’re going to yell Americans: One, two, three – Americans!”