Walpole champion Little Leaguers at the State House

Tom Benner

Editor's note: No photos will move with this story.

“Where’s Mike?” Gov. Deval Patrick asked, looking at the assembled team of Little Leaguers. “Wow. Where’s Sammy? Sammy, you’ve got a heck of an arm.”

Patrick was among a host of public officials to pay tribute to the 12-year-old baseball team, the 2007 New England champions who made it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., earlier this summer.

Among the 13 players to attend a State House celebration on Tuesday were centerfielder Mike Rando, whose over-the-wall grab became a film clip staple on ESPN, and pitcher Sam Falkson.

The players arrived at the State House in two duck boats along with family and friends and were greeted by a contingent of state legislators along with Andre Tippett of the New England Patriots, Larry Cancro of the Boston Red Sox organization and Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster.

One state representative praised the youngsters’ for overcoming long shot odds to take their season as far as they did. Norwood Democrat John Rogers, whose district includes a section of Walpole, noted the team competed with 180,000 teams worldwide in Little League baseball, and hundreds of thousands of players, with 78 countries and territories represented in Little League World Series competition.

 “The trophies that they carry from the field will soon one day hang up on a shelf and will collect dust,” Rogers said. “But the character they built on the field they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

Patrick paid tribute to the parents and families of the players, telling them, “I hope all of you have had the chance or will find other opportunities to thank your moms and dads, your families. I hope you appreciate them as much as we do.”

Treasurer Timothy Cahill, A Qunicy Democrat, told the players the skills they learned on the ballfield will help them to succeed in school and in the workplace.

“One thing that sports teach us is the value of teamwork, and I think this team personifies that,” Cahill said.

Tippett, of the Patriots, said: “Enjoy the life lessons that you guys learned, OK? That’s something that’s going to follow you for the rest of your life. Perserverance, hard work, work ethic, discipline, that’s the things that got you guys here.”

Falkson, Walpole’s pitcher, said he’s grateful for the attention showered on the team, whose players have also appeared at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium for celebrations.

 “It’s been one of the best times of my life,” said Falkson, who goes back to school Thursday.

Tom Benner of The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.) may be reached at tbenner@ledger.com.