Thursday in South Williamsport, Pa., the 65th edition of the Little League World Series begins to unfold.
ESPN — on various platforms — and ABC will air the baseball tournament through the Aug. 28 title game.
Maureen Hassett-Lindsey will be watching, as she holds youth baseball and softball dear.
ESPN’s Coordinating Producer II, Digital Talent Planning & Development played in the 1981 Little League Softball World Series.
The rightfielder helped her Naples (Fla.) team to the 13-15-year-olds national title game.
Even though she played during an era when there was not the media spotlight today’s Little Leaguers endure, Hassett-Lindsey can relate.
“I’m such a big fan. What a great experience. You get to travel, have fun and play,” she said, thumbing through a large scrapbook of press clippings.
“I think there’s still a little innocence to it.”
In the 1981 LLSWS national championship game played in Kalamazoo, Mich., Hassett-Lindsey’s team lost to a team out of Shippensburg (Pa.), 5-2.
“What a great experience that as a young kid, you can cross the country and play sports,” she said, noting that she loved the host family she stayed with during the Michigan portion of the championships.
“I left home at the middle of June, and I didn’t come home until the day before school started.”
For Hassett-Lindsey, making the 1981 Naples team that finished as a national runner-up was somewhat satisfying. But still. . .
“On the 1980 team that won it all, I was the last person cut off that team,” Hassett-Lindsey said.
“I’ll never forget it. I cried for days.”
The Bronx, N.Y. native adjusted to moving to Florida well, earning 12 letters playing three sports in high school. She attended Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. on a basketball scholarship.
In 1989, Hassett-Lindsey began the first of two stints at ESPN as a production assistant for nine months. Jobs with the NBA and Lifetime Television followed.
In 2001, she returned to ESPN and worked for 10 years as a Coordinating Producer for ESPNews and SportsCenter.
This January, Hassett-Lindsey began a new position working with Digital Media Talent such as Fantasy injury analyst Stephania Bell and MMA Live anchor Jon Anik and others.
“I’m learning all the businesses of ESPN3, ESPN High School, ESPNLocal.com, ESPN Insider, The Magazine,” she said.
“And I’m really entrenched with espnW, which I’m really happy about because, having played, I feel like I’m giving back.”
Recently, ESPN.com columnist and radio host Stephen A. Smith dropped by her office to say hello and wish her well on her recovery from breast cancer.
“He’s been so supportive, and all the people I’ve worked with here have been so supportive,” said Hassett-Lindsey, whose husband Tim is ESPN’s Senior Manager of Content Operations.
“Even the people I played with have been supportive.”
Hassett-Lindsey stays in touch with her Naples softball teammates through Facebook.
Even if Hassett-Lindsey was not using social media, working for and watching ESPN might bring familiar names and faces back into her life.
*Teammate Kim Vach’s daughter Sydney’s volleyball team finished second in a national tournament that aired on ESPN3 this month, Hassett-Lindsey said.
*Shortstop Colleen DeGroot Lasauro works for University of South Florida football coach Skip Holtz.
*And Robert Iamurri, a young assistant coach on that 1981 team, has constructed a powerhouse softball team at Naples High. In 2010, he was named national coach of the year.
Hassett-Lindsey still keeps tabs on the Naples’ youth and prep softball programs.
One day, she’d like to attend another Little League Softball World Series. The 2011 edition ends Wednesday in Portland, Ore.
“A few years ago, Naples was in it but I wasn’t able to go,” she said.
“Hopefully, I’ll get back there.”