Chandler Hamilton High School’s Mike Woods knows what winning as a coach feels like after guiding his Huskies to state baseball championships in 2003 and 2004.
But this, for Woods, is a whole other ballgame.
“It’s different,” Woods said. “This time I’m a parent first, and a fan, of course. But I love it. I’m having a blast.”
Woods’ 12-year-old son, Connor — the starting catcher for the Chandler National Little League All-Star team — is undoubtedly having a pretty good time of late as well, especially now that he and his 12 teammates are safely in Williamsport, Pa., where they await their opener at the Little League World Series.
Chandler National plays its first game Saturday at noon (Arizona time) on Ch. 15 against the Mid-Atlantic champion, Salisbury, Md. Other teams in its pool are Lubbock, Texas, and Coon Rapids, Minn.
“We’re heading out Friday I think,” Mike Woods said Monday evening during a gathering of parents at a Barro’s Pizza restaurant in Chandler. “I feel bad for Jeff (Parrish, Chandler coach). They took a red eye, so today he’s got to deal with 13 kids who haven’t slept yet.”
The younger Woods, his teammates and coaches didn’t return to Arizona following their victory Saturday in the West Region title game in San Bernardino, Calif. Instead, the team flew directly from Los Angeles to Pennsylvania.
And with five days before the team actually takes the field in uniform, it was the parents, such as Woods, who were back home, gathering together one last time Monday night before finding any which way they can to book a hotel room and get on a plane headed to Williamsport.
“We’re going to do everything we can back here to help the families get taken care of to go out there,” said Chandler National Little League board member Lawrence Vega.
Vega said fans are encouraged to come down Saturday to Barro’s Pizza, 1880 S. Alma School in Chandler, to cheer on the team.
The league has already been promised donations from the Arizona Diamondbacks and other local groups to raffle off during the viewing parties at Barro’s to help defray some of the costs for families to head to Williamsport.
Chandler National in Williamsport
Saturday: vs. Salisbury, Md., noon, Ch. 15
Sunday: vs. Lubbock, Texas, 9 a.m., ESPN2
Aug. 21: vs. Coon Rapids, Minn., 5 p.m., ESPN2
Aug. 22-23: U.S. semifinals
Aug. 25: U.S. finals
Aug. 26: World Series championship game