For one glorious week in 1979, the only two Senior Little League baseball teams in the world better than Auburn Suburban were stacked with a bunch of past and future television stars.

“Of course, we didn’t know who Dwight Gooden was at the time,” said Bill Reynolds, one of the 15- and 16-year-old local all-stars who took his swings against the future Cy Young Award winner and his team from Tampa, Fla.

Auburn Suburban won state and regional titles that summer before finishing third in the Senior World Series in Gary, Ind.

Gooden spun a complete game and beat Auburn Suburban, 4-1, in what was essentially the United States championship game. ASLL absorbed its only other loss against eventual world champion Chinese Taipei.

“Those were the same kids we watched every year on Channel 8, winning the Little League World Series,” Reynolds, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Poland. “At the time, to me, nothing was bigger.”

Auburn Suburban brought its own multimedia presence to the world stage. Harold Lucas and Ernie Cobb, both former league presidents, traveled with the team and provided play-by-play to the Twin Cities on a local radio station.

“It was a fun thing,” said Dennis Sweetser, the team’s manager and a 40-year Auburn Suburban volunteer. “I remember Harold (Lucas) saying that being out there with those kids made him feel like he’d died and gone to heaven.”

Lin Roberts shared coaching duties with Sweetser. In addition to Reynolds, a power-hitting catcher, team personnel included Gary Violette, Mark Coutts, Brian Cameron, Paul Ames, Dave Mooney, Chip Bailey, Jim Simpson, Bruce Noddin, Lonnie Healy, Bob Taylor, Dave Roberts, Eric Peterlein and Mark Lashua.

Offense and defense were the team’s calling card.

“That was a talented group of kids,” Sweetser said. “Billy Reynolds and Gary Violette could hit home runs in every ballpark we played in. We didn’t have great pitching, but we always had enough to get by.”

Reynolds remembers the group as somewhat of a dream team in its era, taking an extra step or two every year on the tournament ladder from its Major Division (11-and-12) days to its plateau in America’s heartland. Lives, summers and friendships typically revolved around baseball.

“There was an aura about the whole thing that I just don’t see today. We were always out playing ball at the Granite Street Park,” said Reynolds. “I spent more time at Dave Roberts’ house than I did at home, because he had an Iron Mike pitching machine.”

Violette was named World Series MVP. Reynolds went on to play in the College World Series and in the minor leagues.

He’s an exception to the rule, and that always surprised him.

“That was such a talented group,” and Reynolds, “but other than Coutts and me, nobody else really went on to do anything with baseball. Football was really (Coutts’) ticket. He could have done anything he wanted.

“Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk were always my heroes. Some kids want to be a fireman or whatever. All I ever wanted to be was a professional baseball player.”

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