April 12, 2011
by Kevin Dowd
Every August, a rather peculiar thing happens.
The eyes of the American sporting world turn to Williamsport, Pa., to watch a bunch of 12-year-old kids play baseball at the Little League World Series. The players become the biggest names in America for two fleeting weeks.
For most little leaguers, having the chance to go to Williamsport is like Christmas and the last day of school mixed together -- with a dash of baseball thrown in.
It is the ultimate childhood fantasy, and a fantasy that one Washington football player got to experience.
In 2004, sophomore right-guard Colin Porter was a member of the Redmond North Little League team that was one of eight teams in the United States to qualify for the LLWS.
"It was probably the coolest experience of my life," Porter said. "You're away with 13 other 12-year-old kids, with three grown men trying to take care of you -- no moms or anything. It was a blast."
When it comes to summer vacations, it's just about impossible to beat the LLWS -- it is more than just baseball. The teams have a chance to meet kids from all over the world in the dormitories, where all 16 teams in the tournament stay. The North Redmond team, for example, was sandwiched between teams from Poland and Guam.
Porter was also lucky enough to meet the leader of the free world, former President George W. Bush -- just another day in the life of 12-year-old heaven.
"My jaws were like, glued together," Porter told the Seattle Times as a 12-year-old, on meeting the president. "I couldn't even talk."
Porter also showed that he knows how to go out with a bang. In his final at-bat in Williamsport, the first baseman hit a home run to straightaway center field against a team from Kentucky.
"He was throwing about 80 miles an hour, the hardest fastball I have ever seen," Porter said of the at-bat. "But he threw a hanging curve-ball and I hit it out."
Taking advantage of the opportunities presented to him is a skill he has taken onto the gridiron, too. Porter played well enough to be awarded a starting job when injuries opened a spot on the offensive line midway through last season, and he played well enough to earn significant minutes thereafter.
The Huskies' schematic shift to become a downhill running team near the end of last season also further situated Porter as a lynchpin of the line.
"He's a brute in there, he's real strong," offensive line coach Dan Cozzetto said. "He knocks people off the ball."
For a long time, though, in fact until his junior year of high school, Porter was more about knocking balls out of the park. Until a shoulder injury his freshman year of high school relegated Porter to being a designated hitter, baseball was the Bothell native's favorite sport. But, Porter decided not playing in the field simply wasn't worth it.
Good thing football turned out to be a nice plan B.
For most of his career, Porter had exclusively been a defensive player, but he switched to the other side of the ball as a high-school junior, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I started really falling in love with the position," he said. "The nuances of it and just trying to be the best."
Before long, he just might be the best. If his past tells us anything, it's that Porter seems to be able to do just about whatever he wants.