Mets welcome Maine-Endwell LLWS champs

Mets welcome Maine-Endwell LLWS champs

NEW YORK -- No sooner had Billy Dundon finished saying how hopeful he was to meet Yoenis Cespedes than the Mets slugger sauntered over from his usual haunt around the batting cage. Cespedes grinned at Dundon and his Maine-Endwell baseball teammates, who on Sunday became the first New York team to win the Little League World Series in more than a half-century. Then he worked his way down the line of boys, offering autographs for all of them.

In the days since Maine-Endwell won the LLWS, countless requests have poured in from organizations and media outlets around the local area. But as coach Scott Rush noted, "When the New York Mets call, you say, 'Absolutely.'"

"This is amazing," Maine-Endwell outfielder Jayden Fanara said. "We never thought we'd be standing on Citi Field, and we are. Just winning and being here, that's amazing."

Growing up in a small town about six miles west of Binghamton, N.Y., many Maine-Endwell players are fervent fans of the Mets' Double-A affiliate there. They have seen players on the current Mets roster, such as Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, come through Binghamton on their way to New York. Many of the boys are, by extension, fans of the big club.

LLWS champs at Citi Field

But the Mets are also fans of them, well aware of Maine-Endwell's 2-1 championship victory over South Korea on Sunday. Syndergaard, Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and so many others took time out of batting practice Wednesday to greet New York's first LLWS champion since a Staten Island team won the tournament in 1964. Maine-Endwell won all five of their games in this year's event to become the first United States champion in a half-decade.

"Just being here, the kids are absolutely thrilled," Rush said. "If you had told them like three years ago that we'd be standing at Citi Field watching the Mets take batting practice, they wouldn't believe you. It's been unbelievable."

After meeting Mets players during batting practice, the Maine-Endwell team returned inside, where New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo addressed them.

"We are all very, very proud of you and what you represent in your victory," Cuomo said, reading from an official state proclamation, "and your character and how you stand for all of the important virtues of this state."

In the days since its victory, the Maine-Endwell team has hardly floated back to Earth. The players received a police escort from the LLWS site at Williamsport, Pa., back to upstate New York, where locals greeted them Monday with a victory parade. The club also plans to attend a game at Double-A Binghamton this season.

"It's a whirlwind," Rush said. "I'm sure for the next couple months we'll have to kind of pick and choose our spots."

Added Dundon: "It's amazing. We're just trying to get the best out of this. We're just taking it all in."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.