By Connie Leonard
(LOUISVILLE, May 25th, 2004, 12:30 p.m.) -- Two years ago they became Kentucky's youngest heroes with dignity and grace, winning the Little League World Series Championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania and bringing Bluegrass baseball fans a summer we'll never forget. Our Connie Leonard recently found out what the Valley Sports champs are up to now.
In 2002, their talent, unselfish teamwork and heart had fans across the nation on their feet. Valley Sports beat Japan for the Little League World Series title. It was a thrill of a lifetime, but the players had no idea what was in store from them when they returned to Louisville.
There were thousands of screaming fans, parades, autograph signings, T-shirts -- even a chance to meet President Bush and check out Air Force One.
Two years later, the crowds have diminished and so has some of the fanfare but, the love of the game remains the same. So it's no surprise where we found our All-Stars.
Former Valley Sports Manager Troy Osborne has done it again. This time Troy has put together a travel team, games college and pro scouts attend. "I think this is going to be a very, very good team for 14-year-old kids."
You may recognize some of the players, but some have grown, like Troy's son, Zac Osborne -- the superstar hitter and pitcher during the 2002 series, who is now playing shortstop. "It's fun to me, I enjoy it."
Casey Jordan, who grabbed the final out against Japan, plays third base. He admits he has changed. "I've gotten taller and I've gotten fatter."
Catcher Ethan "E." Henry stole the hearts of all the 12-year-old girls. "My mom got mad at that," he recalls. "We had girls calling us at 3 o'clock in the morning."
And the big "A" -- Aaron Alvey, who struck out 11 batters and had the only run in the final game -- is also back. And the memories of the 2002 championship team are still fresh in his mind. "Man it was just great. I will never, ever have a better experience than I did."
Missing from the new team playing on Derby City Field is the youngest member of the World Series gang, Alex Hornback (aka "Peanut"). But don't worry, we found him across town at Crosby Park in Middletown. In three innings during the 2002 series, Alex hit a double, had a double play and pitched. Oh and he's no longer known Peanut anymore. These days he's simply "Nut."
But for longtime fans, old habits die hard. His old pals won't let "Peanut" die either.
As much as all the players have grown and changed, they are still Kentucky heroes.
One of the best thing benefits about their celebrity status as World Series Champions turned out to be the lunch ladies. "I'd ask for another slice of pizza and they'd give it to me for free, Casey said" But unfortunately, that didn't last. "I switched schools so they don't give me no more free food."
Casey is headed to south Oldham next year, and Aaron will attend Butler High. Zac, Ethan and Peanut will play for PRP.
All the players have gotten stronger, they throw and hit harder and may have a major league future. In any case, the parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles will keep rooting them on. The boys say they'll always have their friendship and more important, their Little League memories.
Many of the remaining Valley Sports players are also still swinging the bat.
By the way, after 15 years, former coach Dan Roach tells us he's taking it easy this year, and is enjoying playing golf. And we're told co-coach Keith Elkins is helping coach his son, Justin. Roach says Valley Sports has added a new field but the desire to have a huge complex was overridden by the cost.
Online Reporter: Connie Leonard