Sunday, August 28, 2011

Williamsport Alive - The 2011 Little League World Series

Every August, the Little League World Series graces our television sets.  Set up so the United States would always be in the Championship Game, the Little League World Series always promises thrills and laughs for us.  Looking for things to watch on TV while we ride out Hurricane Irene, this game fits the bill to keep these kids interested, at least until the power goes out.  Featuring Japan and California, the two teams that have dominated the World Series over recent years, we hunker down in the basement to watch the game.

1989 version of the LLWS
3pm.  Trying to explain the different groups in the World Series is like teaching the kids Physics.  One side consists of all United States teams broken out by region, the other side consists of all of the other international teams broken out by country.  Yes, Japan is a country, not a region.  No, Canada is not a state, it's a country.  No, West is not a State, either.  Confusing for impressionable kids.

And not a good start by showing my nine year old, a budding pitcher, how the kid got hit in the cap by a batted ball in the United States regional - California's starting pitcher this afternoon.   At least the kid didn't get hurt.  Although we wouldn't have needed sport science to explain the blood gushing from the kid's nose if he did get hurt.

After a groundout to start the game, G was saying "Yes" then "No" then "Wait who am I rooting for again?  White or yellow?"  After a bit of hemming and hawing, they both proclaim that they are rooting for California.  I will root for California too, but frankly, I would have preferred the kids from Montana to be in the World Series; it always seems like California is in the Championship game.  Give someone else a chance.  Oh yeah, U.S.A!  U.S.A.!

I'm not sure, but I think that more kids from California named Ichiro as their favorite player than the kids from Japan.  The kids from Japan all seemed to pick the same favorite player and it didn't sound like it was Ichiro.  I will point out that I do not speak Japanese.

"What's the team for Japan.  The Japan Jaguars?" G asks me still considering which team he was going to root for.  Those are the kind of questions I think I'm going to hear all afternoon.

"This ump is so old and so bad!!"  C remarks after each strike is called against California.  After each ball, he cracks "The Japanese pitcher is so awful.  I could pitch better than him!."  What a homer.  0-0 after 2.

Designated runners?  Oh come on!  I yell as a sacrifice bunt and error turns into Japan's first run as the First Basemen throws the ball away trying to get the Designated runner out at Third Base.  Japan goes up 1-0 in the Third Inning.  This kind of play usually turns the star pitcher into a sobbing mess.  We'll see; he took a ball off the face before, too.

Just as Brent Musberger talks up the college prospects of the 12 year old phenom, Hagen Danner, the kid smacks an opposite field home run to tie the score at 1-1.

Controversy in the 4th inning as the California pitcher, fielding a weak ground ball up the First Baseline, forced the Japanese runner out of the baseline, looked like he tagged him on the way by AND threw him out at First Base.  While teams have two unsuccessful challenges, for some reason the U.S. team decided not to challenge so the player was safe at First.  Even G wanted them to challenge that call.  No run scored, though so we avoided some awkward analysis of a little league coach by Orel Hershiser.

As the score remains 1-1 in the bottom of the Fifth, the Californians start milking the count to get the Japanese pitcher to reach the 85 pitch mandatory maximum.  Way to go with the sportsmanship, guys.

Later on that inning, I find it funny that the U.S. feed of the game has a microphone on the Japanese manager, like we know what he's saying to the pitcher.  I wonder what the Manager was saying after the Shortstop made that error on the flip to Second Base loading the bases.  I probably recognize some of that language.

And here we go!  After the bases are loaded, Nick Pratto hits a ringing single to Centerfield to win the game!  Huntington Beach wins the Little League World Series to take the title back to California.  Although G has gone upstairs, C and I exchange some high fives as the Little Leaguers start jumping around for joy.  After Mom tells him that the U.S. winning was awesome C tenderly pointed out "Not for Japan, they were all crying." 

Good for them.  Hopefully this won't be the highlight of their lives. 

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