Saturday, August 18, 2007
As we near the beginning of football season, I figured I'd take the chance to look at the little league world series, and the puff pieces it engenders in newspapers across the U.S. (and the world).
Whether you enjoy the spectacle or think it's a bit overwrought for a bunch of kids playing a game that could be more at home in a sandlot, there's a lot being written about the 61st LLWS, and we're going to sift through it. It's become big business now, with ABC and the ESPNs covering all 32 games between four pools of teams.
Pools A and B include American teams, from Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Oregon, Texas, and Massachusetts. Pool C is an international bracket that features Canada, Japan, The Caribbean, and Saudi Arabia. Pool D is Mexico, Taipei, Netherlands, and Venezuela. See the entire schedule of play and TV coverage here.
The series is held in Williamsport, PA, so we'll turn first to the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, which has only begun its coverage as of the Saturday edition.
Writer Morgan Webb takes a soft-focus look at the team from Lubbock, Texas, which made its way to the LLWS by winning the Southwest Regional tournament:
Last Sunday, the team received a warm send off, when around 2,000 people gathered for a pep rally at their home field. However, the rally was more than a celebration; it was a fundraiser. Local businesses donated money and food, raising about $20,000 to help send the players’ families to Williamsport.
At a 10 a.m. practice on Friday, it was clear that there are a lot of younger fans supporting the team. Younger brothers and sisters helped in the practice or were nearby on the sidelines. Coach Gerald Arredondo’s daughter, whose brother Bryndan plays on the team, is even missing her own softball all-star games to root for her dad and brother.
The other team of note to the Sun-Gazette in the early going is the team of kids from Salisbury, Maryland. Alison Eaton focused on the bond between the parents, who have traveled together for weeks as their kids advanced in the tournament:
All the Salisbury parents are staying at the Comfort Inn, and most of them arrived on Thursday. “The parents just get along great,” East said.
And that’s a good thing, because the parents of the players have spent a lot of time together. Friday morning, they attended the parents meeting. After that, some parents, other family members and supporters bought bright orange T-shirts that read Mid-Atlantic on the front and Salisbury, Maryland, on the back.
Not only are the parents friends with each other, but they even befriended parents from the Massachusetts’s team. “We met them in Bristol,” East said.
The international teams probably won't get much local press until they've been in town a while and reporters manage to find translators to help get their stories, but the International Herald Tribune has made some early attempts, writing about the Japanese team:
Japan pitcher Junsho Kiuchi speaks little English. But ask him about his favorite pitcher and he'll answer with a name familiar to baseball fans.
"Matsuzaka," Kiuchi said with a big smile, referring to Boston star Daisuke Matsuzaka. "Dice-K."
If he pitches just as well as his gyroballing idol, Japan might go pretty far in this year's Little League World Series. Japan is such a mainstay in South Williamsport that tournament organizers this year decided to make the Japanese national Little League winner an automatic qualifier to the series.
I have to admit that the team I'm most curious about is the team from Saudi Arabia. The kids on the team don't appear to be actually from Saudi, so I can only imagine that they are the children of expatriates. The oddest thing about the team, aside from their point of origin, is that they have a player who is... six-foot-eight. It's this kind of thing that makes the LLWS seem just a tad illegitimate every year. How on earth is there an NBA-size kid playing Little League? The Associated Press (via MSNBC) talks about it, but doesn't question it:
Aaron Durley towers over the competition at the Little League World Series.
The 13-year-old first baseman for Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, stands an imposing 6-foot-8 and weighs 256 pounds.
“I was standing next to him and I was up to his elbows,” Scott Kingery, a 12-year-old, 4-foot-9 Phoenix shortstop, said after meeting Durley.
I'm going to be kind and assume that someone asked to see the kid's birth certificate, because this positively reeks of b.s.
That's all I have this week. Thanks for dropping by!