BRISTOL, Conn. — Twelve-year-old Charlie Stahley tried out for the Andover Nationals but didn't make the squad.
Stahley, however, still is playing an important part in the Nationals' run through the playoffs as a bare-chested superfan with the letter "D" painted on his chest.
Yes, Stahley was part of a group of six fans who went bare-chested to yesterday's game against Maine here in the New England Regional Little League tournament. They all painted a different letter on their skin and together the group spelled out "Andova."
"I'm really close friends with all of them (the players)," said Stahley, who made the trip to Bristol with his mother, brother and his brother's friends. "It's really fun (being the 'D')."
Ommel Bonilla, 14, was part of the bare-chested group, too.
"We haven't been down to regionals in a while," Bonilla said. "So we thought we should have a big support team and go all out. Just body paint! We basically know the whole team. They're a great group of kids. We love them."
Why "Andova" instead of "Andover" you might ask?
Well, the group couldn't find a seventh fan with enough desire to paint a letter onto his chest and stand out in the sun for two hours.
Garrett Finn, manager Paul Finn's son who played in the Little League baseball tournament in 2009, didn't want to paint his body for a second straight day.
"I did it yesterday, but I got all sweaty," Garrett said, laughing. "It (the paint) was all dripping down. It wasn't so fun. It was brutal."
Matt Nicholas, 11, made the trip to Bristol with his mother and brother. He is hoping to make the Andover Nationals next year. Nicholas was sporting the letter "O" on his bare chest yesterday.
Nicholas already said he will make the trip to Williamsport if the team qualifies for the Little League World Series.
"It's fun," he said about being the O guy. "It's the best the team has been in a long time."
Meanwhile, the painted boys aren't the only fans playing important roles here during the Andover Nationals' run.
Ten-year-old Anneliese Ziegenbein, the sister of third baseman Charlie Ziegenbein Jr. and assistant coach Charlie Ziegenbein Sr., made signs and hanged them throughout the ballpark with Katelyn Gemmell, sister of right fielder Dan Gemmell.
"I'm really excited," said Anneliese who has attended all the games during the playoffs. "I put some of the signs up. The ones with balloons on them. We made them a couple of days ago in the hotel that we're staying at. "They say, 'Andover Nationals.' And the one over there (in the outfield) says, 'Hit it here' and one of them says, 'Go Andover, Mass.!'"
Anneliese said she is really proud of her brother "because he made it this far."
Hayley Finn, the 18-year-old daughter of the Nationals' manager, also has been in the stands this week.
"Basically our whole life is baseball," said Hayley, who will attend Providence College in the fall.
"I'm 18 years old and getting dragged to baseball games," she added, laughing. "It's really exciting."
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