ESPN documentary on 1982 Little League debuts Tuesday
By MATT PHELPS AND MEGAN MANAGAN
Kirkland Reporter writer
August 26, 2010 · Updated 2:00 PM
At least 10 of the 14 players from the Kirkland baseball team that won the Little League World Series in 1982 will be at Sport Bar and Grill on Tuesday. But the event is not just to reminisce about the biggest sport’s moment in the city’s history.
It will be a fund-raising event to watch a documentary called “Little Big Men” on the Kirkland Little League’s time in the spotlight. It will air nationwide on ESPN at 5 p.m. The proceeds from the fund-raiser will go to the Pat Downs Foundation, which was set up by 1982 Kirkland Little League star player Cody Webster to benefit disadvantaged youth.
“Am I Nervous? Absolutely,” said Webster, who lives in Bothell. “I am a pretty private person so seeing it for the first time in such a public place really makes me nervous. But it is a good way to let our friends and family know about what the foundation does and (the team members) would have got together any way.”
Tickets are available at the door.
“We have a 200 person capacity,” said Chad Hartvigson, who played first base and right field on the 1982 team. “That team has given me friendships that are still intact 30 years later.”
The film’s creators, director Al Szymanski and director of photography Peter Franchella, began researching the documentary late last summer.
“We wrapped just a little more than a week ago,” said Szymanski.
But the documentary is the first of its kind on the event.
“It didn’t really surprise me that they would do it cause it was a really good story,” said Hartvigson. “I was surprised someone didn’t do it earlier.”
Szymanski echoed those sentiments: “It is shocking no one touched on this story, but it happens a lot. Many of these seminal moments get absorbed into time.”
The 1982 championship team brought world-wide attention to Kirkland and the young players. The team ultimately won the championship by defeating Chaiyi City, Taiwan, 6-0 during the 36th Little League World Series. The win stoked national pride as Taiwan was undefeated with five Little League World Series titles.
The documentary focuses on the build-up of the 1982 World Series and what happened to the kids in the years after.
“It is shocking what Cody and his teammates had to endure,” said Szymanski. “I was shocked by it.”
Szymanski said that while the Kirkland community gave the team great support, not all were as excited for the team or the players.
“The next season was just a cauldron of competition and nastiness,” said Szymanski.
Expectations for some were very difficult to deal with. Webster, who pitched a two-hit shutout and hit a home run during the championship game, struggled with it being the height of his athletic career at 12 years old.
“They were the same questions I have heard for the last 28 years,” said Webster. “But I really liked those guys (Szymanski and Franchella).”
Along with the foundation, Webster has started a coaching business and gets very high praise from Szymanski.
“I would trust Cody’s care,” said Szymanski. “He can not only teach baseball lessons but lessons in life. He is a real classy guy.”
For most of the players on the team that summer was one of the best of their lives.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” said Hartvigson. “That summer was all baseball.”
Hartvigson, along with Mark Peterson and Mike Adams, went on to play professional baseball in the San Francisco Giants organization.
Most of the interviews in the documentary were done at the Eagles Lodge in downtown Kirkland. Szymanski said he was very appreciative of the Eagles for their support. A few of the interviews were done at the players’ homes.
Szymanski said that his only regrets about the documentary were that he could not go more in depth about the parental aspect and the time constraints not allowing him to include all the interviews.
“We have constraints trying to fit it all into just 50 minutes,” said Szymanski. “We interviewed nearly all the players less two or three. We wanted to include a kind of ‘where are they now’ in the epilogue for all the players but didn’t have the time ... This is an amazing bunch of guys.”
Szymanski said that the players were very sensitive about how they would be portrayed in the documentary.
“The spotlight was so intense and they just don’t want to get burned,” said Szymanski. “My hope is that people applaud the accomplishments of that team and recognize what these guys endured.”
The 1982 team included: Cody Webster, Mike Adams, Brian Avery, Gibbie Black, Shawn Cochran, Bill Cook, Chad Hartvigson, Erik Johnson, Dave Keller, Greg Miller, Mark Peterson, Taikan Sekine, Mark Swain and Perry Travis.
Sport Bar and Grill is located across from the Space Needle at 140 4th Ave. North Suite 130 in Seattle.
Megan Managan of the Mercer Island Reporter co-authored this story.Contact Kirkland Reporter writer Matt Phelps and Megan Managan at firstname.lastname@example.org.