Fields, North State making Little League history
Published 8:48 pm Tuesday, August 22, 2017
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Drew Fields and the Greenville North State Little League team have commanded attention, respect and an opportunity Wednesday to play for a national championship at the Little League World Series. Fields, the team’s centerfielder and one of many key bats, has this level of competition in his blood.
Fields is the great-grandson of legendary Washington football coach J.G. “Choppy” Wagner. He led the Pam Pack from 1941-1966, amassing more wins than any coach before or since.
“I never got to really grow up with him, but I’ve heard many stories,” Fields said. “He was just a great coach. Hopefully I can live on with a legacy like him.”
Now, 51 years after his great-grandfather’s career directing the Washington football team came to a close, Fields is helping represent the area on youth baseball’s grandest stage. He’s like great grandfather “Choppy” in a lot of ways.
“I can hear him say it right now: ‘Wagner, that boy.’ He would be absolutely beside himself right now. I promise you he is smiling down some kind of big seeing him on that field,” said Wagner Ward Grubb, who is Fields’ mother and the famed coach’s granddaughter.
“He would have been so excited to see him play. Drew — both of my kids — are lucky to have the Wagner gene. They both are great individuals. One of the things my grandfather always told me … is the importance of sportsmanship and always being a team player.”
It’s not just the competitive fire that’s helped Fields be successful in the LLWS. His easy-going attitude helps keep him grounded in a game that requires players to stay loose. Being too tense can lead to errors on the field, and baseball is a game where coming up with a hit in a third of one’s at-bats is considered an excellent feat.
Little League fans and the eastern North Carolina faithful following the games on ESPN know this about Fields. They witnessed the 13-year-old doing the “Worm” on home plate during a recent broadcast.
“He’s got the same spunk as my grandfather,” Grubb said. “He’s kind of a little jokester. He’s serious when he needs to be serious, but he never lets it go too far. … The older that Drew gets, and the more he’s been out there on the field, the more he understands how important it is.”
His older brother, Tanner Fields, added, “It’s crazy watching him go play. … They dance before every game. He was doing the ‘Worm.’ … I got interviewed on ESPN. The lady that interviewed me beat him in pingpong, so I said that I’m going to have to hold that over his head.”
Of course, North State’s success has been a complete-team effort. Fields has done his part locking down centerfield and collecting key hits, but each member of the squad brings a talent of his own.
“All these boys are incredible athletes. Every single one of them,” Grubb said. “Each of them has something that the other one doesn’t. When you pull all of that together, and when these boys are all playing together as a team, they truly are unstoppable.”
North State has been exactly that heading into Wednesday’s showdown with Texas. The boys from Greenville became the first American team in LLWS history to record back-to-back no-hitters. Three pitchers combined for a perfect game against South Dakota on Friday. Then, on Sunday, they didn’t allow a hit against California.
“Hopefully we can do the same thing. Our pitching has done amazingly. Hopefully they can pull through,” Fields said. “We can get the bats working again, like in our other games.”
Fields’ father, Brian Fields, is also the manager of the North State club. First pitch against Texas is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN. Among those from eastern North Carolina who have descended upon Pennsylvania for the LLWS has been a significant chunk of the Wagner clan, including Fields’ grandmother and Wagner’s daughter, Becky Wagner Ward.
Anyone interested in donating to fund North State’s expenses can visit the team’s GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/southeast-LL-greenvillenc.