Archive for August 20th, 2011

There was an opening round game last night at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.  I know that doesn’t sound too interesting at face value.  I mean, c’mon, it’s a couple dozen 11 and 12 year olds playing ball. And it’s only an opening round game  in a double elimination tournament.  So if they lose it doesn’t rule them out from potentially winning eveything.  In other words, it’s not now or never.

But this game was not your typical game.  It matched a team from LaGrange , Kentucky with a team from Clinton County, Pennsylvania, a rural Central Pennsylvania county only twenty minutes down the road from Williamsport.

Local boys.  Local fever. 

The crowd started amassing before the 5 PM  game prior to the Clinton County game which started at 8 PM.  Convoys of buses from Clinton County swarmed into Williamsport.  By the time the first pitch was thrown the stands and hillsides of the landscaped bowl in which the field sits was packed in a way that it had never been in the 64 years of its existence. 

41,848 fans to be exact. 

To put that in perspective, the first place New York Yankees were playing the Twins in Minnesota and drew a sell-out crowd of 41, 328– 500 less  fans.  And the Boston Red Sox were in Kansas City  playing before a crowd of 21,262– almost half the size of the crowd smushed together on a Pennsylvania hillside, most rooting for a Clinton County victory.

But, alas, fortune was not smiling on the youngsters from Clinton County.  They lost 1-0 in a tense, action filled game that featured the LaGrange ace striking out 12 Pennsylvanians as well as scoring the only run of the game on a first inning home run.  Clinton County had several opportunities but just couldn’t push a run across the plate. But both teams played extraordinarily well and didn’t seem at all phased by the huge crowd around them.  I am always amzed at the composure these kids maintain in what seem to be pressure packed scenarios.  I think of the people who talk about having thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at  major league games and how they say the pressure is just remarkable.  And that’s just to throw a lob in the general direction of the plate.  Myself,  I would have  a hard time just swinging a bat before such a crowd, let alone trying to hit a fastball.

But these kids seem oblivious and perform in a cool manner with skills that seem out of line with their typically small bodies.  Amazing. I’m hoping Clinton County can bounce back.  If they can somehow fight their way to the final game, I think they might have to close down Williamsport.

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