When David Belisle heard he had gone viral, the first thing he had to determine was whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. The 2014 Little League World Series had ended for his Cumberland, R.I., team the night before, but Belisle’s impact on the event had just begun.
The next day in our dorm, the boys were all excited, they came up to me and said, ‘Coach, you’ve gone viral, you’ve gone viral,’” Belisle said. “First of all I had to figure out what it meant, ‘gone viral.’
“My son Johnny had to explain to me because he knew the concern on my face. He said, ‘No, Dad. That’s good. That’s a good thing.’”
The speech that Belisle delivered to his heartbroken team in the moments after its elimination was viewed as such a good thing that one year later, Belisle’s impact on the event is unmistakable, both in Williamsport and on ESPN’s television coverage of the Series.
Belisle can be seen and heard providing commentary from live games and on the set of SportsCenter. Plus, early in each game, on a Frosted Flakes commercial, Belisle’s speech is heard over a montage of scenes of Little League Baseball at its finest.
For Belisle, there is no denying the pride in having delivered the right speech at the right time. When he first heard about going viral, he thought that it was in response to a motivational talk he had given prior to a sixth-inning comeback win earlier in the Series. He was unaware that the microphone was still on and a camera had followed him as he addressed his team on the Lamade Stadium field for the last time.
What was captured there painted Belisle as the ideal youth sports coach and led to both the commercial and his announcing assignment with ESPN. To a man who has devoted years to influencing children and teenagers through his coaching, the speech was a reflection of the influences on his own life.
Belisle credits the long-term coaching relationship with his own father, the support of his late wife and the players he was speaking to that night.
Frosted Flakes tied the commercial into a Hall of Stripes exhibit of Little League World Series memorabilia in the Family Fun Zone on site. It made sure Belisle’s words resonated a little longer, but many Little League fans could recite at least a portion of the speech without the reminder.
“You had the whole place jumping,” Belisle told his team that night. “You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. Because you want to know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys that don’t quit. They like guys that play the right way.”
A Lifetime of Coaching
Before heading to Williamsport twice as New England Region champion, Belisle was known more as a hockey coach.
Belisle has been an assistant coach for his father Bill at Mount St. Charles Academy for 35 years. Bill’s career includes 35 Rhode Island state high school championships — 26 in a row at one point — and 15 alumni in the National Hockey League.
“I’m fortunate enough to be tutored by my father who has coached 40 years in high school,” David Belisle said. “He was my Little League coach and he always emphasized respect for the game.”
Belisle lost his wife Nancy to a two-year battle with cancer in February. Long before and then throughout her ordeal, she encouraged his coaching.
“She was such a supporter of me,” Belisle said. “She didn’t care about the wins and losses, but she wanted me to be with my father coaching with him for 35 years. She loved the idea of not only being able to coach the game, but to do it with your best friend.
“She also was a big proponent of me coaching my own kids, because she knew that I was going to be nurturing but also competitive enough to instill in them something that they’re going to need for the rest of their life. My wife was always my biggest supporter.”
Belisle said his entire team was touched by Nancy’s strength, which also helped keep the game in perspective.
The players who he said had “given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career,” were the inspiration for the speech that has inspired others.
“They gave me the opportunity,” Belisle said. “They brought something out in me ... and that’s what you saw in that speech because that’s what you saw in their play.”
Belisle could not leave the field without telling that to his players that night.
“I just wanted a moment of reflection with them,” Belisle said. “I saw how disappointed they were. The more they cried, the more emotional I got. I knew how important it was to let them know how special they were and that the journey we took was one that we’ll never forget.”
Shown His Stripes
Around the time he was getting ready to commit to ESPN, Belisle heard from Kellogg’s about plans for the Frosted Flakes “Show Your Stripes” commercial.
“They were kind enough to share the trailer with me before they put it on,” he said. “It was so fabulous. It was everything I wanted myself to be associated with, with kids smiling and joking and playing and showing the spirit of Little League.
David Belisle’s postgame speech after his team’s 2014 loss to Jackie Robinson Little League:
Everybody heads up high, let’s talk for a moment here. Look, I gotta see your eyes, guys. There’s no disappointment in your effort. In the whole tournament, in the whole season, it’s been an incredible journey. Look at the score: 8-7, 12-10 in hits. It came to the last out; we didn’t quit.
That’s us! Boys, that’s us. The only reason why I’ll probably end up shedding a tear is because this is the last time I’m going to end up coaching you guys. But I’m going to bring back with me ... and you guys are going to bring back, something that no other team can provide but you guys, and that’s pride. Pride.
You’re going to take back for the rest of your life what you provided for a town in Cumberland. You had the whole place jumping. You had the whole state jumping. You had New England jumping. You had ESPN jumping. Because you wanna know why? They like fighters. They like sportsmen. They like guys that don’t quit. They like guys that play the right way.
We got down to the nitty gritty, we’re one of the best teams in the world. Think about that for a second — the world!
We need to go see our parents, because they’re so proud of you. I want everyone to come in here for one big hug and then we’re going to go celebrate. We’re going to celebrate with our parents, and then tomorrow we’re going to celebrate and come home to a big parade.
I love you guys. I’m going to love you forever. You’ve given me the most precious moment of my athletic and coaching career, and I’ve been coaching a long time. I’m getting to be an old man, I need memories like this, I need kids like this. You’re all my boys. You’re the boys of summer.
So for the last time we’re going to try to suck it up and we’re going to yell ‘Americans.’