Izzo: Fargo’s Little Leaguers set to give city, state a lasting sports memory

FARGO – You couldn’t help but get excited Friday afternoon when the Fargo Little Leaguers knocked off Sioux Falls, South Dakota to earn a spot in the World Series in Williamsport for the first time.

These have been heady days for Fargo Youth Baseball, the organization formed six years ago with that clear goal in mind.

The organization was grouped with an emphasis on creating Williamsport. Sioux Falls was able to pull through several years ago, and organizers here believed that the youth of this city could pull it off.

With the creation of indoor practice facilities like The Attic and Ballyard, year-round baseball became a thing in Fargo. The children had the opportunity to work on their art in a way that had never happened before.

In 2018, Fargo debuted at the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis and nearly upset the field, reaching the championship game on ESPN, before falling to Des Moines, Iowa. Over the next few years, Fargo won several races at Indy, but lost before reaching the title game.

I was told this summer that this year’s team had a chance to be special. Several of the previous coaches indicated that the 2023 team had the pieces to make a run for Williamsport. The team couldn’t have gotten off to a better start in the regional, outscoring their first two opponents 31-3.

Fargo lost its first game to Sioux Falls, but got a rematch with defending champions South Dakota in the district final. They found themselves tied at 4 in the fifth inning when they broke the game open, building a 9-4 lead and holding on for the win, 9-7.

I said in a commentary four years ago that this would happen and it would be huge for the city and the state. We’re going to see how huge it can be later this week.

“Anybody with baseball ties, it’s going to be huge.” said 2021 Fargo Little League head coach Grant Gigstad. “It’s the one thing on the calendar that you know is going to happen. It’s a right of passage, anyone connected to baseball will tune in.”

“To see how much fun it was for them and how excited adults can get it was incredible.” 2022 coach Eric Grande said.

Think of the miles and time this team has put in. The minor leaguers left on August 3 for Indianapolis and the regional. They stayed there for nine days, leaving directly from Indy and taking a bus to Williamsport. They will be there at least until next Sunday, and possibly longer if they win.

It’s almost three full weeks on the road. Not even professional teams can boast of such road trips.

Fargo will make its debut Friday in Williamsport against Needville, Texas. They will play primetime on ESPN at historic Lamade Stadium. At least 20,000 people will attend, with millions more watching at home.

Ratings for last year’s tournament saw 2.5 million viewers watch the United States championship game on ABC. That’s more than watched the North Dakota State – South Dakota State national championship game earlier this year.

Fargo has enjoyed plenty of national attention for sports recently, but this might be its best love letter yet. For 12 boys and three coaches, they represent the entire Upper Midwest, whether they like it or not.

“I knew it was a big deal to you, but this is way bigger than I could have imagined.” 2018 coach Mike Rerick said. “We were so close, it’s very special what they’ve done.”

The players don’t realize it yet, or maybe they do, but this will be one of the most memorable weeks of their lives.

For the rest of us watching, enjoy this too.

The next ten days will bring us one of the most talked about sporting events to happen in this city in a long time.

Dom Izzo is the sports director for WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to sports director in 2010.

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