Florida team has record-setting world title run

By Dave Gorgon
Special to The News-Herald

The Junior League World Series had never seen a team as powerful until the 2004 team from Tampa, Florida, arrived in Taylor.
It took the 13- and 14-year-old boys from the Palma Ceia/Bayshore Little Leagues some to get here. After winning the Florida state championship and the USA South regional title, the team arrived late for the World Series due to the threat of Hurricane Charlie on the Tampa area.
When they finally got here, they showed more fire power than any other previous entry in the World Series. They went 6-0 in the series, including a 5-2 win over Punto Fijo, Venezuela, in the championship game before more than 2,000 fans and a worldwide ESPN audience.
They set records for home runs (14 in six games), runs (56) and hits (74). They had a record nine hits in one inning. Florida players Mike Lashbrook and Peto Kirkwood each scored 11 times, which tied another record. Kirkwood hit five dingers himself, tying a series record, and Lashbrook hit .652 with a record 15 hits.
In all, 13 records were tied or broken – mostly by Tampa. The team’s 21-15 win over Fort Worth, Texas set a record for most runs in a game. Tampa’s six victories tied yet another mark.
The team was recognized as the amateur team of the year by the Tampa Sports Club, received a plaque from the City Council and was honored with its own day from Mayor Pam Iorio. Monuments to recognize the achievement were built at both the Palma Ceia and Bayshore Little League fields.
The game was shown on videotape on ESPN2, but team Manager Dan Kirkwood, an attorney, had to go to court that day and said he didn’t get a chance to watch the game from start to finish until June.
Lashbrook had the most success in the past high school baseball season, starting at first base as a freshman, hitting cleanup and leading the Plant High School varsity team in home runs. He hit .379 with 29 runs basted in.
Peto Kirkwood, also a freshman, was a reserve second baseman on the same team.
Six teams from Florida have played in the Junior League World Series. It was the third time a team from Tampa won the World Series. The Belmont Heights Little League won in 1982 and the Tampa Bay Little League won in 1985.
Gary Sheffield and Derek Bell were members of the Belmont Heights team. Both went on to long careers in the Major Leagues. Sheffield still plays for the New York Yankees and played in the All-Star game this year at Comerica Park in Detroit.