By RAYMOND L. DAYE
Had a little breeze called Katrina not occurred, the biggest thing to hit Avoyelles Parish in August 2005 would have been the triumphant return of 11 young men who represented their parish, their state and the entire Southwest region in the Senior League division of the Little League World Series.
Time has not dimmed the memories made in that special season nor the pride felt by the men who coached the 11-member team to become the sixth-best team in the world. The last game of that World Series was Aug. 20, 2005. The series began Aug. 14.
One of those coaches is John “Stu” Regard, who also had the privilege of coaching 10 of the 11 boys when they played for Marksville High. The group won 57 games and two district championships for MHS in three years -- the winningest team of Tigers in school history.
“It was a special time, a special season and a special team,” Regard said.
The team consisted of Manager Robby Roszell and coaches Thomas Dunn Jr. and Regard and players Kory Moss (3rd base, pitcher), Alex Brouillette (2nd base), Blake Moss (left field), John Lemoine II (left field), Christopher Normand (catcher), Shea Jeansonne (catcher), Zachary Roszell (shortstop), Wade Borrel (center field), Seth Webster (pitcher, 3rd base), Thomas Dunn III (pitcher) and Wesley Maddox (1st base).
It had been 50 years since a Louisiana team had played in the Senior League World Series.
The Senior League players were 15 and 16-year-olds from across the nation and the world.
Unlike other World Series teams that included the best players from several area teams, this team was made up solely of boys from the Marksville-Effie area. Regard said the team could’ve been stronger had it included star players from other areas of the parish.
Most coaches will say they would rather have nine men playing as one team than have a group of nine stars playing as individuals.
The 2005 group played as a team.
All but Buckeye pitcher Seth Webster lived in the Ward 1 and Ward 2 areas of the parish.
Webster went on to play for Nicholls State and Louisiana College. He was signed to play minor league professional ball and is currently a starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves’ Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, N.C., where he has a 6-6 win-loss record, 2.95 earned run average and has struck out 56 batters this year.
Three other team members -- Zach Roszell, Alex Brouillette and Wade Borrel -- played for LSUA.
Five teams from the U.S. and five teams from throughout the world came together in Bangor, Maine, the week of Aug. 14-20, 2005, to compete in the Senior League World Series. At the beginning of the playoff season, 5,800 teams worldwide had dreams of playing in the World Series. That number was reduced to 10 who earned the right to represent their region in Bangor.
One thing that impressed Regard was the imposing house just outside of right field. Best-selling author Stephen King had donated $1.2 million to build the World Series field and could enjoy the games from his front porch. The ballpark was named Shawn Mansfield Stadium after a 14-year-old who loved baseball but died from cerebral palsy.
The Avoyelles team started the series on a high note, beating the Republic of Georgia -- an ancient country located south of Russia near Turkey in the Caucasus Mountains -- in a 10-2 game that was closer than the score would indicate.
Panama beat the local team, 4-2, in a come-from-behind effort in the sixth inning of the seven-inning game. As if to emphasize the “on any given day” saying, the Georgians upset Panama, 2-1.
The defending Senior League champion, Freehold Township, N.J., defeated the local team by a 12-2 score.
In its last game, the Avoyelles team faced Urbandale, Iowa, and fell by one run when Iowa broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning.
Iowa faced Hawaii in the final game, taking the title with a 7-2 victory.
Regard said the 2006 team “was made up of kids more from the parish. We were a little deeper team than the 2005 group,” but got eliminated early in the playoff season.
Regard said he still talks with several of the team members and keeps in touch. There had been some talk of getting everyone back together for a 10-year reunion, but some of the players have other commitments.
“Whenever I talk with one of them, they always talk about how much fun it was and how much it meant to them and how they will never forget it,” Regard said.
“We had a huge following that year,” he continued. “There must have been several hundred to meet us when we came back from Maine.”
In fact, he said one of his most lasting memories of that season “was of how excited the city and the communities were around here.”