These days when national and world news is only slightly less painful than having an infected wisdom tooth removed with a miniature jackhammer, there is a temptation to beg, borrow, or steal a few acres of trembling earth in the geographic center of the Okefenokee Swamp, build a floating log cabin, and live in blissful ignorance amongst the alligators and black bears. No doubt it would be safer than Chicago or California, and without television, computers or cell phones, there would be no politicians asking for my vote and access to my wallet. I could use a hollow log for a mailbox and my mailman might be a 21st Century version of a Pony Express Rider who enjoys the swamp solitude and is open to the idea of replacing his horse with a canoe. To protect against the IRS and bill collectors, I could casually mention the need for fresh gator bait if my location is compromised.
But then the Little League World Series (LLWS) comes around and a widescreen television suddenly becomes a necessary evil in my floating swamp cabin. For anyone who likes baseball, it is entertainment that can create a euphoric form of dementia whereby one temporarily forgets that Democrats and Republicans also inhabit Planet Earth.
This year the LLWS worldwide format returned after COVID which clearly demonstrates how kids around the world love baseball, and they can really play the game. It is stunning to see what Little Leaguers can do with a baseball from a pitching mound 46 feet from home plate. During the Curacao-Panama game, a camera mounted in the outfield bleachers with a satellite class telephoto lens revealed the Panama pitcher was throwing a wicked knuckle-curve. Even more amazing, some batters hit it.
While on the subject of hitting, the Hawaii players can bruise cowhide with aluminum. Against a good New York team coming off a no-hitter in the regionals, they recorded 11 hits and four homeruns and won 12-0.
Tennessee’s Josiah Porter (nicknamed The Natural) is blind in the right eye, but he’s an outstanding hitter and fielder. To better understand his talent, try catching a baseball with one eye closed. To protect myself against ambulance chasing lawyers, I wish to go on record as suggesting the use of a catcher’s helmet with full face protection.
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the LLWS is the spirit of sportsmanship and camaraderie. When pitchers hit a batter, they sometimes meet him/her between home and first base and apologize. After one player homered, the opposing shortstop gave him a fist bump as he rounded second. Nicknames like Chops, Tank, Moose, and T-Rex are common and rekindle memories of Coach Anson Calloway of Lyons, Georgia, during the 1970s. Coach Calloway assigned nicknames like Pork Chop, T-Bone, Hot John, Cornbread, and many more. It was a traditional part of the game, and the boys loved it. I can still see T-Bone Cobb rocking back with a big grin and bringing that fastball.
In Little League ball, one should never be surprised. Saturday night, Massachusetts got five outs against Pennsylvania. It started with a diving catch by a Massachusetts outfielder, but players on both teams weren’t sure the ball was caught. An accurate throw to home provided the third out, but the Massachusetts boys tagged the two remaining and confused base runners to make certain. Apparently they subscribe to the famous Yogism, “it ain’t over till it’s over…”
A near tragedy became a big LLWS story when 12 year old Easton Oliverson of Utah fell out of his bunk bed in the middle of the night and fractured his skull. Doctors feared he might not survive. Part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on the brain, and a full recovery is expected.
When Tennessee played Utah, Tennessee players put on Utah caps before the game to honor Easton, and in the fifth inning when Tennessee had an 11-2 lead, Brogan Oliverson, Easton’s 10-year-old brother who replaced him on the team, approached the plate to pinch hit and got a standing ovation from Tennessee fans. Those were two demonstrations of pure class. As a red-and-black-bleeding Georgia Bulldog, I was conditioned to believe the terms ‘Tennessee fans’ and ‘class’ were fundamental opposites.
As part of the LLWS, the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox came to Williamsport Sunday afternoon to play in the Fifth Annual MLB Little League Classic. In the early afternoon they mingled with players and fans during ongoing Little League games, slid down the grass slope behind the outfield on cardboard slides with young fans, and signed autographs. I wonder who had the most fun…