The Little League World Series began Thursday in Pennsylvania. Lafayette starts their run Friday, when they take on South Dakota.
While the journey to Williamsport has certainly looked different in the middle of a pandemic, this Lafayette team is still having a blast.
"It's amazing," Lafayette second baseman Aiden LeBouef said. "I've been watching it on TV for a while now. It's pretty cool to say that I'm here."
"This is a dream since I was young," outfielder Dylan Menard said. "I've always been watching people like Japan, Hawaii, Southwest on TV and stuff. Just knowing I made it here is a really cool experience."
The rockstars of the Hub City right now are Lafayette Little League. The team dominated in the southwest regional to clinch their spot in Williamsport. But outside of baseball, nothing about this journey has been normal.
"We came back from Waco. We knew we were leaving for Williamsport 2 days later. We knew we couldn't go back home because there was too much at stake," Lafayette manager Steven Menard said. "We came back to a great reception. Lot of families and a lot of players in our league, administration and the neighborhood. We got out, we had about 10 minutes. We shook our hats, dropped off some dirty clothes and got back on the bus."
Instead of going to their individual homes, the team went to Cajun Palms in Henderson for a few days. The camp grounds not only served as a bubble for the athletes and coaches, but also delivered some well needed rest and relaxation.
"It was big. It was very big. We fished a lot. There weren't really fish though," LeBouef laughs. "The pool was really fun. They had some water slides that were pretty cool. They had some bunk beds that we all slept in. It was like a house.
"It was really cool. We had a couple cabins by ourselves," Dylan Menard explained. "We got to let off from practicing and have fun a little bit, but safely. We went fishing. We got to swim. It was fun, because we don't get to do that everyday. It was fun letting loose, having fun, hanging out."
"For a couple days, we took a little break. We let the boys play around. We got in the pool for probably the first time this summer," Steven Menard says laughing. "They enjoyed that and hit the reset button."
Next stop on the magical journey was Williamsport, where Lafayette has been practicing for the last week. Louisiana has been preparing to face South Dakota in game 1. First pitch is set for 4 pm and you can watch the game on ESPN. For Lafayette, this week has also been a chance to soak in the stage.
"Just seeing the fields and things around the field," Dylan Menard said. "There's a bunch of mountains that surround everything. Also, being able to see the field that you've always been watching and being able to play there."
This is a dream come true," Steven Menard added. "Not only for our kids but also the coaching staff. This is the mecca of youth baseball here. This facility is 2nd to none."
This run has come with a ton of sacrifice. Lafayette has had to take 8 COVID-19 test during their Southwest Regional and LLWS run, as compared to only playing 4 games so far. The group has also been away from their families and homes for over a month now. But the journey has built an unbreakable bond for Lafayette, that could lead them to gold in Pennsylvania.
"It feels like my team is my brothers," LeBouef said. "It feels like a family already."
"We've gotten a lot closer. Having to sleep together, staying in the same room," Dylan Menard added. "We got closer and that's a lot better, cause playing as a team is better than 'oh I don't know this kid, but I have to play with him.' This team is different. All 13 (players) are like family."
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