Little League Baseball is the largest youth sports organization in the World, and is well known for the Little League World Series. Year after year, youth baseball players dream of making the trip to Williamsport in mid-august to compete against the top little league teams in the world. Those of you, who are old enough to remember the 1982 Little League World Series, can appreciate the magnitude of this event, and how much nationalistic pride can rise from a Little League World Series Championship.
In the summer of 1982, a little league team from Kirkland, Washington advanced to the Little League World Series to compete against a powerhouse team from Taiwan. Taiwan first appeared at the Little League World Series in 1969, and won 10 championships in the next 13 years. Heading into the 1982 LLWS championship game, Taiwan had won 31 straight games in Williamsport. During this time fans in the United States became accustom to watching team after be defeated by Taiwan, and the boys from Kirkland were immense underdogs.
Kirkland star pitcher Cody Webster was confident in his ability to execute on the mount and at the plate. The nation watched and cheered with prided as Webster pitched a 2-hit, 12 strikeout, 6-0 shutout leading his team to victory. The boys from Washington became national heroes overnight. Webster got the opportunity to appear on “Good Morning America,” meet the governor, and throw out the first pitch at Shea Stadium.
Life was great in that moment, but it didn’t stay that way for the Little League Champs. The attention became very overwhelming, especially for Cody Webster, who received majority of the attention. “A lot of us got all of the good parts of it and none of the bad,” said teammate Shawn Cochran. “Sometimes it can be hard, the judgments people make on you. Cody got the brunt of it because he was the big name.” Webster was a shy kid who was uncomfortable in the spotlight, as are most 12 year old kids. As time passed, Webster continued to experience intense pressure to live up to everyone’s hype and expectations. He was constantly the target of insults by opposing fans, players, and adult spectators. “It happened a lot, I remember being spat on by parents, called fat… for a kid who didn’t want any attention this happened too often,” said Webster.
The pressure and expectations would eventually affect his love for the game and he never enjoyed a moment in sports as much as he did when he was 12 years old. Webster went from being a national hero to quitting baseball on and off throughout his teenage career because it wasn’t fun anymore. “I didn’t want to play, the only reason I did was because of my friends, if it wasn’t for them I would of quit the game forever,” said Webster.
Being the best at age 12 does not in any way guarantee that you’re going to be the best in high school, let alone college. At age 12 Webster was a great all around athlete. He threw 79mph fast balls, and was a noted home-run hitter, but he rarely got the change to enjoy the accomplishment that stunned so many in the summer of 1982. “It’s hard when people meet you and say, ‘Well, what happened to you?’ I’d say, ‘What do you mean? I’m standing right here,'” he said. “You get tired of that stuff. It beats you down. I’d be happy to sit in a room and having no one know. I just wanted to be Cody.”
Whatever happened to the kids from Kirkland? Webster now lives a quiet life and coach’s baseball on the side. You can watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Little Big Men” documentary of Cody Webster and the rest of the 1982 Kirkland Little League All-Stars at espn.com. The 2010 Little League World Series ended Sunday with Tokyo defeating Hawaii in a 4-2 victory, clinching Japan’s seventh Little League World Series Championship.