'Uncles' adopt Northwood during stay at World Series

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Monday, August 17, 2015

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John Tompkins, left, and Jeff Eastlake are Northwood Little League's

Little League World Series Photo

John Tompkins, left, and Jeff Eastlake are Northwood Little League's "Uncles", serving as the team hosts, through their stay at the Little League World Series.


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Lamade Stadium, the historic ballpark at Williamsport, Pa., is 'the first thing the players want to (see) when they get off the bus,

Little League World Series

Lamade Stadium, the historic ballpark at Williamsport, Pa., is 'the first thing the players want to (see) when they get off the bus," Jeff Eastlake said. 


It is taking the Northwood Little League team as much work to meet all the public demands than just practicing and playing games at Williamsport, Pa.

The Taylors team has been whisked from public appearances to demands by Little League World Series officials to ESPN production staff getting background information for the televised games.

It takes a special coordination for teams to hit all the marks in their daily and evening schedules.

And that is where “Uncles” John Eastlake and Jeff Tompkins come in. Tompkins, in the corporate structure at Murphy USA, has been granted leave from his new Arkansas –based job. He has lived and worked in the Williamsport area and participated in the LLWS in the past.

Eastlake is the senior member of the team, his 17th year as an “uncle”.

Eastlake and Tompkins met the team when the bus arrived at its lodging headquarters, four hours late, 9:30 p.m., Friday night and they will see that the Northwood team receives the best hospitality the town and Little League headquarters has to offer.

Eastlake and Tompkins have been with the players and coaches every step of the way. That includes the players’ first visit to Lamade Stadium, the historic baseball stadium at the LLWS.

“The first thing the players want to do when they get off the bus is to see the baseball field,” Eastlake said. “The field is lit at night so the players arriving can see the stadium.”

“The players are in awe when they see it,” Tompkins said.

But there’s no running the bases until game day. “You have to earn that,” Eastlake said with a laugh.

The players went on a shopping trip that would do any USA Olympic athlete proud, yet alone 11-12-year-olds.

“They get their uniforms and equipment they will play with during the series,” Eastlake said.

The players received all new – LLWS uniforms, shoes, bat, baseball glove, helmet and Oakley sunglasses, “to look professional”. And yes, they get to keep it all.

“I was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and played in the minor league and all I got to keep was the hat,” said a laughing Brian Mershon, father of player, David.

“They began letting the players keep their uniforms about three to four years ago,” Eastlake said. “They used to recycle them for four seasons. The players have the option of playing with their new gloves and equipment or not.”

You have to look your best for the ESPN cameras, which is the next stop on the players’ and coaches’ first day. “ESPN will take their headshots, get background information and learn about the team,” Tompkins said.

During the Regionals, players introduced themselves on ESPN and named their favorite player.

Northwood as Southeast Champion plays Rhode Island, the Northeast Champion, on Friday at 4 p.m. at Lamade Stadium. The game will be on ESPN.

“The intention for us is to let coaches be a coach,” Tompkins said. “Kids can have fun with the practices and games and we’re around for peace of mind.”

Eastlake said he remains in contact with many of the players that have passed through the LLWS under his guidance. “I get emails from players and how they are doing in college. We get to know how the younger players are doing in high school ball.

Eastlake said they become attached to the team. "You can't spend that much time with a team and not feel it."





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