As the Mid-Island team steams through the Little League World Series at Williamsport, the feeling of Mid-Island mania is mounting back home on Staten Island and throughout the city.
The crew of 12- and 13-year-olds are one win away from the U.S. finals, with a game against the West on Wednesday all that’s standing in the way.
“It’s like a Super Bowl feel,” said Richard Bruno, 57, from West Brighton, whose nephew Gregory is a pitcher on the team. “People are asking, ‘Where you going to watch the game Wednesday night?’”
The Kettle Black bar in Westerleigh has become a hub for viewing the action. It even screened games as early as the Regionals through the ESPN app, days before the semifinals were televised, and drew about 100 people to the bar to see the Mid-Island team beat Middletown, New Jersey.
Other Staten Island eateries have chipped in too. Jimmy Max held a fundraiser last weekend serving up pizza and baked penne. Fifty percent of each food bill was donated to the team, according to the restaurant’s Facebook post.
For Staten Islanders, bringing home the winning title is long overdue. It’s been 54 years since the mid-Atlantic team won the series. Coach Joe Calabrese’s team is the sixth Little League baseball squad from Staten Island to make it to Williamsport.
The magical Mid-Islanders even have lawmakers pulling for them. On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “No matter what happens next, your city is already so proud of you.”
At the same time, his political rival and former mayoral candidate Assemb. Nicole Malliotakis said: “Their hard work and perseverance has paid off and the whole borough is rooting for them to go all the way.”
As for the team, the jitters that come with all the hometown hoopla and fanfare haven’t unnerved the squad. Coach Calabrese said the team has maintained their calm and has only one thing on their minds.
“We have one job here and that’s to win the World Series,” he said.