[This is my column in the Aug. 14 issue of The Commercial Review.]
The Little League World Series begins today.
While it may not mean much to most people, I try to catch as much of the action on ESPN as I can.
Aside from making it to the professional ranks, playing in the LLWS was a dream of mine as a child.
It was the world’s stage for baseball players 11 to 13 years old.
I remember watching the 1998 series as a 12-year-old and being slightly upset I wasn’t a participant. But at least I got to see kids my age do what I had dreamed of doing.
The tournament that year included a team from Michigan. It didn’t fare very well in Williamsport, Pa., but I was excited because at least my state was represented.
As it turns out, the 1998 LLWS was all about the team from Toms River, N.J. It had current Cincinnati Reds player Todd Frazier and it beat a team from Japan to claim the first championship for a U.S. team in five years.
I remember starting baseball the next season talking with my friends about wanting to be just like Toms River. We wanted to make it all the way to Williamsport and keep the championship in the United States.
Much to my chagrin, it never happened. It would be four more years before another American team was crowned champion of the international tournament.
In 2001, the tournament featured quite possibly the most dominant pitcher it has ever seen — Danny Almonte from Bronx, N.Y. The left-hander struck out 62 of the 72 batters he faced at Williamsport. He also threw the first perfect game at the LLWS in more than four decades.
The problem with Almonte — who was born in the Dominican Republic — is he was actually 14 years old, two years older than his parents alleged him to be.
The idea parents will do whatever it takes for their children to win was a blow to the tournament and to the sport. ESPN’s Jim Caple called Almonte’s father Felipe “the worst stereotype of the Little League parent sprung to life.”
Almonte’s team was forced to vacate all of its wins, Felipe was banned for life from Little League competition and the league president was banned as well.
But despite the controversy more than a decade ago, the tournament for children is still fun to watch.
The skill level is something to admire. They’re barely teenagers and they have impeccable athletic ability for someone their age.
I don’t recall having the wherewithal to do some of the things they do. The recent domination by Mo’Ne Davis is just another reason to watch.
Davis, who is the first girl to play in the LLWS in more than a decade, tossed a three-hitter Sunday to lead her Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League team to an 8-0 victory over a team from Delaware in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship game. She struck out a half dozen in the win.
Davis won’t be the only girl represented in the tournament this year though. South Vancouver Little League’s Emma March will represent Canada, and it will be just the third time two girls will play in the same championship series.
There are many different storylines to this year’s tournament aside from Davis and March. Exactly how good is the Jackie Robinson West team from Chicago? Can any of the American teams bring the title back to the United States, or will Japan win for the third year in a row?
Those are just a few.
But no matter what happens, I will be sure to watch.
If only we had a TV in the office.