Texas player, grandfather share World Series experience

Fifty-four years before Landon Appling and his teammates from El Campo, Texas, played in the Junior League World Series in Taylor, John Paul Appling was having his day in the sun.

Landon, 14, is a member of the USA Southwest regional champions currently playing at Heritage Park. John Paul, Landon’s grandfather, played for El Campo in an event called the “Little Bigger League World Series” when he was 14 in 1952.

Little League has always been for 12-year-olds. The Little Bigger Little League was for 13- to 15-year-olds. The senior Appling, now 68, played outfield.

“We took a train from Houston to Trenton, New Jersey,” Appling said. “We didn’t win it, but we were in third place.”

Appling, who says he doesn’t think he’s related to baseball Hall of Famer Luke Appling, remembers as much about the trip as he does about the games.

“It was very enjoyable,” he said. “We visited the Empire State Building and watched the Yankees play. We came back through Washington DC. It was a very good experience.”

For Appling, baseball was his “third sport” after basketball and football.

“I don’t think baseball was as good as is now,” he said. “We had some good players, also. We had two sectional tournaments, both in Austin. We had to win the Texas championship first and then the Southern championship. We beat Louisiana and went to Trenton.”

Appling’s son, Mark, played multiple sports in high school and played football at Sam Houston State University.

Mark and Phyllis Appling’s children also are athletes. Daughter, Meagen, played softball for an El Campo team that won the Texas East state championship in 2002 and made it to the finals of the Senior League Southwest regional in Grand Junction, Colorado. She’s now a cheerleader at the University of Texas.

This has been Landon’s team’s year. His El Campo team won the Texas East state championship and played in the USA Southwest region, also in Grand Junction. The team beat the Texas West champs in the finals to advance to Taylor.

Like his father and grandfather, Landon Appling plays sports year round. He plays baseball, basketball, football and track and field.

“It’s very exciting,” said John Paul Appling, who is a “semi-retired” rancher, farmer and businessman. “He’s a good ballplayer. I’ve very proud of him – I’m proud of all of them. They’re a good group of boys and I hope we represent Texas well.”

Landon Appling said he’s talked to his grandfather about his youth baseball experiences and even receives inspirational advice.

“He said you’ve got to work hard to be good,” said Landon, a catcher. “It made me work harder. Every time we go to practice, we work harder and harder.”

Landon said his cousin, Julia Collins, played for El Campo in the Senior League World Series of softball in 2003 in Jeffersontown, Kentucky. Her team lost in the “championship round” to Pilot Mountain, North Carolina.

John Paul Appling says he doesn’t show favoritism when it comes to his grandchildren.

“We follow all of our grandkids everywhere,” he said.