As Northern Little League catcher Blake Hicks signed autographs Monday night in the Shaw High gym, he knew his three-week summer break extension was all but over.
Are you ready to go back to school tomorrow, the Blackmon Road seventh-grader was asked.
“A little bit,” Hicks said.
The Northern all-stars went on a two-month journey that took them to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., where they finished among the top eight teams in the world.
On Monday, they were welcomed home by about 300 family, friends and fans.
Most of the two hours were spent signing balls, hats, shirts and pictures by the kids who played six games on national television over a three-week period.
Mayor Jim Wetherington told them they brought great pride to their hometown.
Northern manager Randy Morris said it has been “a long. long summer.”
“Their parents can be very proud of them, and the city can be proud of them,” Morris said.
The celebration was more low-key than 2006 when Northern won the World Championship.
Clayton Duncan, an 11-year-old who played at Northern this year, came out to welcome his buddies back to town.
“These are my friends,” Duncan said.
He also had a pressing question for them.
“I wanted to see how they liked missing school,” Duncan said.
It looks like the players — all 12 of whom attend Muscogee County public schools — will get a free pass. One of the people at Shaw to welcome them home was Superintendent Susan Andrews.
As the last of the autograph hounds worked the line of players, team mom Tracy Pate admitted she was a little sad.
“We have been together almost every day for the past three months,” Pate said. “Practices, lunches, ballgames, you name it. Now, it is done.”