World Series to world serious: Whatever happened to the Valley Sports champs?

Published: May. 8, 2017 at 2:15 PM EDT|Updated: May. 9, 2017 at 12:24 AM EDT
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Fifteen years after Valley Sports won the Little League World Series, the team's busted-up...
Fifteen years after Valley Sports won the Little League World Series, the team's busted-up trophy is a metaphor for what has happened to some of the players since.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In 2002, the Boys of Summer were boys from Louisville.

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They were the best in the world.

That year, the Valley Sports American Little League team defeated their opponents from Japan to win the Little League World Series, bringing home the championship trophy.

"This is where the trophy was stored," Valley Sports board member Cliff Henries said as he unlocked a storage room and showed us the World Series championship trophy, which is now broken into several pieces. "We found this (one of the pieces) out in the parking lot here."

Fifteen years later, the team's busted-up World Series trophy is a metaphor for what has happened since.

"A month before the season started this year, we sat up here and discussed not having a season," Henries said.

"We heard it got too competitive," Valley Sports league president Nathan Hall said. "It's a recreation league and they were practicing five days a week, which drove parents away."

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"We had eight to ten-hour practices every day," World Series champion Ethan Henry said. "Our coach expected perfection. I think it was really good for us, and I also think it's good for the country that we have high expectations for people and we treat them with high expectations."

As strange as it sounds, Ethan Henry was the only player we could get to talk about what it was like to literally be on top of the world at the age of 12.

It turns out, life sometimes throws curve balls and occasionally a nasty change up. Several players from that team have spent time behind bars on various felonies.

"It all comes down to a lot of people make it and a lot of people don't," Henry said.

Zach Osborne made it. He has hit .252 through six seasons in the Colorado Rockies Minor League system.

Wes Jenkins didn't make it.

"We bought that for Wes because he was supposed to take that with him," David Jenkins said, referring to the shrine of memorabilia from that wonderful year. The tokens are stacked on shelves in his home, honoring his son who played on that team. But, Wes became addicted to heroin.

"I kept telling him, 'this is still fixable'," Jenkins said. "And the one thing I kept telling him is, 'if you keep going back to this, you're gonna die.' He was working two jobs, ready to graduate from college with two degrees, went out on Memorial Day night, got a hit, had 17 different drugs in it. They said he died instantly."

David and Jean Jenkins have established scholarships in memory of Wes because their son helped others that way.

"Parents always approached me saying how much they appreciated Wes taking the younger kids under his wing," Jenkins said.

Did winning a World Series at the age of 12 set those kids up for a life letdown?

"It's a very interesting sociological question," sportswriter Billy Reed said. "Some are able to find perspective, go and lead normal productive lives, and others let it get out of perspective in another way. I think this team is kind of a microcosm of this country, and probably you'll find it worked out the way it should."

"You want to grow as a human being and always set goals, to move forward in life, and have wisdom and guidance and supporting family and community to push our young kids forward," Henry said.

Outside of that, all we really have are memories. Memories matter more to some people now than they do to others. But, no one can take away the power, the pitching, the president and the parade after the perfection they practiced played out on a Pennsylvania ball field 15 years ago.

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