Little League tourney winding down as memories continue piling up
Special to The Union
Just manning the right field foul line at the 4 p.m. Thursday game – Washington vs Texas. One more game between Hawaii vs Georgia follows at 7 p.m. On the international side – Japan and Asian Pacific have qualified for the International Championship on Saturday.
I have had several questions on why the home plate umpire wears black. Sorry if I answered this before. We were provided black for the plate and polo blue for the bases with the jacket being optional depending on the weather.
I spoke with a couple family members Wednesday and asked them how do they do this with work and school responsibilities. The kids that should be in school are obviously having a blast but do know that when they get back they have to come down to earth and get with the program.
Most schools on the East Coast don’t start until after Labor Day. The parents spend lots of the day on the Web or the phone if they work and others have understanding bosses recognizing that this is a once in a lifetime experience for the parents as well as the kids.
There is lots of practice time on many fields in the complex to keep them busy, plus what you have probably seen on TV inside the Grove to keep them active. With such a unique atmosphere with so many kids and families spending the week in such a great place as the LL Complex you just do not see any unhappy folks here.
The Grove is the barracks area for the players and coaches and is off limits to all else including the umpires. I plan on going there the day after the tournament to see what it looks like. There are day trips for those that have enough chaperones. Unfortunately for the Latin American team they only have one parent and the coaches and no money so they are basically confined to the Grove except for games and practice times.
There was an awards breakfast MC’d by Gary Thorne of ESPN this morning that we all attended. A point that he made that shows how special this place is were all of the families that he talks with that are simply here on vacation and have no ties to any of the teams. Some come every year and some just come to experience the event with their kids. We have not had any games with less than 8,000 fans (at least that is the announced amount) for any game. It will be a major come down when I do my next game in California with less than 30 fans in the stands. I promise I will not be spoiled and give up umpiring.
The awards presented at the breakfast were:
• Good Sport of the Year – presented to a player nominated by his league
• Mom of the Year – nominated by essays from players
• Urban Initiative – a program provided for disadvantaged kids in urban areas and is strongly supported by Major League Baseball
• Challenger Award – a program established in 1989 for children with mental and physical disabilities. If you have not seen one of these games you must and you will appreciate what you have much more after wards.
• Parent of the Year – presented as a result of a nomination from a present Major League player. This year CC Sabathia nominated his Mom. She is from Vallejo for you Northern California folks
• Volunteer of the Year – nomination comes from a league.
And lastly the Great Moment of the Week. The other night Washington was playing Conn. and Washington had a flamethrower that was pitching what amounts to a major league 100 mph fastball. When this player reached his pitching limit with two outs in the bottom of the 6th the coach did not know what to do when he went out to the mound and was surrounded by his infielders. Should he burn his pitcher which would mean he could not pitch the next day or what. The left and right fielders started pointing to the center fielder and the infielders started pointing to him.
This little guy who could not have been much more than 4-feet, 5-inches tall and had not pitched since his district tournament more than a month ago was waved in by the coach and given the ball. His pitches were what we call “Lolly Pops” – very slow with lots of arc.
With the difference between the flamethrower and his pitches he gets the only batter he faces to to weakly ground out for the last out and then runs over and leaps into his coaches arms. A priceless moment.
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The 2021 High School Optimist All Star teams for baseball, softball and boys volleyball have been announced, and several local student-athletes made the cut.