Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Williamsport = The Best Place on Earth.

The game was won in the final inning by the team from Georgia. One kid on the team from Washington State had the worst day of his young life, I suspect. We'll call him Brad Lidge. He was called on to relieve the starter in the final inning of the game. The starter, we'll call him Cliff Lee, had pitched incredibly - giving up one run through 5 and scattering about 6 hits. Little Lee opened the 6th inning with a walk and the manager immediately called for his closer. In comes the twelve year old Brad Lidge. He has a one run lead. The score is Washington 2, Georgia 1. There is a runner on first. Nobody is out. His job is to preserve the lead... and the win for his team. Lidge proceeds to throw three consecutive wild pitches - advancing the runner from first to second... second to third... and lastly third to home. Tie game. There were some intermittent hits and walks after this and, frankly, I can't remember how the go ahead run came in but the top of the 6th ended with Washington being down 3-2, having given up the lead, with only one more set of at bats to try to win the game... or go home. Young Lidge, for all intents and purposes, had lost the final elimination game for his team. He was visibly upset. But there was hope...

In the bottom of the 6th, Georgia brought in their closer - we'll call him Lee Smith. The kid was GIGANTIC! Like - I wouldn't be able to make contact off of this little leaguer. Anyway, in true baseball fashion, Lidge was given the opportunity to redeem himself in the bottom of the inning. There were two outs, the tying run on third - the winning run in scoring position on second base. This was when mighty Lidge comes to the plate. Redemption time. After several blistering fastballs, the count runs to 3-2 and the brave young kid fouls off, what seems like, 20 pitches. At this point Lee Smith is bringing nothing but heat. It's sheer power vs. skill. Lidge keeps fouling off pitches... he's staying alive. Battling. Finally - Smith reaches back for something special and blows a high hard one right past a swinging Lidge. The Georgia team erupts in celebration while young Lidge throws his bat and helmet and cowers into the dugout - where his coach embraces him and tells him, surely, not to cry for they have had a great season.

My dad, the boys, and I all piled into the car yesterday to venture 3 hours into the mountains in order to catch a glimpse of the Little League World Series - happening in Williamsport, PA.

Well, it's official. The LLWS has officially topped my list of fun things to do with the kids. If you like baseball, if you like free and fun places to take the kids, and if you like climbing up to the top of a hillside only to slide down headfirst on a cardboard box - then this event is for you. (The one draw back is that beer is not permitted. I know... I know... you CAN watch baseball without drinking beer - but it isn't quite the same.)

After exiting Interstate 80, the drive to Williamsport winds you through the Appalachain Mountains and, at moments, looks down upon the Susquehanna river below. We passed several card shops and fresh produce stands along the scenic drive. This is little town America through and through. Upon arrival, there are two stadiums - Volunteer Stadium and Lamade Stadium - that are connected by an awesome concourse including food stands, picnic tables, souvenir shops, and sunflower seed stands (SWEET!). Games were scheduled at 12pm, 2pm, 4pm, 6pm, and 8pm.

We got there just after the 2pm game started. We peered through the gate, hoping to find five vacant seats in the packed Volunteer Stadium to no avail. As we were standing there gawking at the Latin American team taking on Japan, Orel Hershiser breezed by us. It happened so quickly that I barely had a chance to tell the kids who he was. "HOLY CRAP! THAT WAS OREL HERSHISER, KIDS," I told them. "Who?" "You have so much to learn, children." Orel had just grabbed a hot dog, it appeared, and was heading back into the Press Box. So cool.

We finally settled in on the hills beyond the right field fence at Lamade Stadium. We figured that we could grab a drink, find some cardboard (for the hill), and wait for the 4pm game to start. The best way to describe the atmosphere there is like a folk festival. Lawn chairs littered the hillsides beyond the outfield fence and the smell of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers filled the air. The kids behind us stretched out a blanket and displayed their impressive collection of baseball pins that they had diligently collected throughout the week here in Williamsport.

The kids met new friends, slid down the hills, and talked about pins and baseball cards, while my dad and I sat back and enjoyed America's pastime being played by twelve year old boys from all over the world on a field in rural Pennsylvania - where 15 thousand baseball fans flocked to see them, cheered, and ate grilled hot dogs while they watched... and longed for a cold beer.


JonnyTam13 said...

I love the LLWS! I even had hopes and aspirations that the LL team I coached would make it, but alas, we didn't even get out of our own local league. Going to Williamsport sounds like a great idea though and I'll be sure to take my kid(s) when they're a little older!