In the face of all this wholesomeness, it's cheering to discover that Chris's room at home is a certified disaster area. Clothes and trophies and baseballs and hockey gear and junk and stuff are everywhere. When asked how he even gets into his room, Chris looks dumbfounded and says, "I just walk in and sit down." With that he plods through the mess with the same determination one might use in a bamboo jungle, sits down on his bed and looks triumphant: "See?"
But upon leaving, Chris, who's a roly-poly 5'2", 126 pounds, trips over some sneakers buried next to a hockey stick that's protruding from the clutter. That causes him to stumble into the open dresser drawer with the underwear hanging out. He steps into the hall, carefully closes the door behind him and says, "I think Mom likes it better when she can't see it."
Many of us, in our childhood dreams, were forever hitting the ball or slapping the puck that won the game as the crowd cheered. For most of us, though, the fantasies ended when the first curveball was thrown our way or when we discovered that hockey meant a lot of skating backward. For Chris, such dreams have been surpassed by reality.
Take the baseball triumph. After Chris and his 14 teammates won in Williamsport, Donald Trump flew them home in one of his planes (Chris called his mother during the flight). Limousines picked them up at 5:30 a.m. to take them to New York City for an appearance on Good Morning America. They went to FAO Schwarz, the Manhattan toy store, and to lunch at Mickey Mantle's restaurant, where they met the boss. Soon thereafter, the boys were summoned to the White House to visit with President Bush and offer their smiling faces for numerous photo opportunities. (While leaving the White House grounds, Chris was tossing pieces of tree bark when he spotted a rattrap at the White House foundation. Taking a pitcher's aim, he threw a piece of bark and set off the trap. "Hey," he said, laughing, "rats live here.")
The young champions attended the first two games of the World Series in Oakland, and Chris threw out the first ball in Game 2. They have been guests of the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox. They have had VIP tours of FBI headquarters and the halls of Congress. They've been to Radio City Music Hall and to NBA games, and they have each received five jackets, plus plaques and pictures and proclamations. The team was in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The praise and the atta-boys have been nearly unceasing. Too much for 12-year-olds? "Naw," says Chris. "It's perfect."
If the boys of Trumbull have been honored in excess, it may be because their victory was so unexpected. Such an unlikely band of five-foot heroes is easy to adore. Back on April 25, when another Little League season dawned in Trumbull, the biggest dream anybody had was to win the town championship. When it came time to put together Trumbull's two All-Star teams to compete in the Little League playoffs, no one was asking directions to Williamsport. But on that one wonderful day in August, over six innings, little Trumbull was better than Taiwan and all the rest of the world.
The coach was Tom Galla, owner of a local insurance company and a one-time catcher at Marietta (Ohio) College. Galla shakes his head when he thinks back on what his Little Leaguers accomplished. "These are 15 kids with better than average ability who managed to accomplish something they shouldn't have been able to," he says. "How could you expect that the Number One team in the world would come from Trumbull, Connecticut? You couldn't. If I'd had 15 kids as good as Chris and you'd asked me if we could win it all, I'd have said, 'No, of course not.' "
"All I want out of this," says Marcia, "is for Chris to keep having a lot of happy memories—and keep being a kid." She reflects the concerns shared by other mothers and fathers of the Trumbull champs, as well as by the coach. Says Galla, "I don't expect all this to ruin Chris. But I'm afraid it may ruin some of the others."
In different ways, people have tried to keep the boys humble. At the banquet, attended by some 500 people, local radio personality Tim Quinn addressed the team and said. "Would we all be here if you had lost? Well, no. So what you guys have done is screw up another Friday night for us."
Ask Marcia her immediate concern for Chris, and she says, "Getting him out of eighth grade. Beyond that, important as all this is, it's not as important as we think it is. It's just another step in fulfilling his life's goals, whatever they turn out to be."