Facebook Twitter

Leaguers grow up on road

SHARE Leaguers grow up on road

The athletes play Gameboy at night, cry when they lose a game and can ride the bus for half-price.

The world's best 11- and 12-year-old baseball players also are getting a dose of adulthood: being on the road for up to a month, fielding questions from journalists and representing their countries in one of the largest sports playoffs in the world — the Little League World Series.

"The best description is: When we started, we had 13 young boys. And when we bring them back, they are 13 young men," said David Trimble, manager of the High Park team from Toronto, Ontario.

"I don't think there's another sport in the world other than baseball that you can work your way through all season and then represent your country at the end when you're a 12-year-old boy or girl."

The Little League World Series begins in Williamsport, Pa., on Sunday, with four teams from the United States competing to play the winner of the four-team international bracket in the championship game next weekend.

Trimble's team has been on the road since early July, competing in the local, regional and national championships.

He said the players grow up because of the hardships of traveling, staying with families, making new friends and the marathon of practices and competitions.

"I've always said it's a great life experience, being here," said Trimble, who has coached two other Toronto All-Star teams to the World Series since 1989. "But they're still 12-year-old kids no matter what you're doing here."

Matt Kolar, manager of a team from Davenport, Iowa, said traveling and the anxiety of competition can be hard on the kids, so he tries to keep his players relaxed by playing cards and allowing them to stay up late and sleep late.

"They're just kids having fun. We try to keep it pretty light," Kolar said. "It's a marathon. This will be 12 nights out of town in a row, with another week to go."

This is Kolar's first trip to the World Series, but Davenport East has been to the playoffs twice before, most recently losing in the first round in 1989 to Trumbull National of Trumbull, Conn., the eventual champions.

Other U.S. teams in the series are Bellaire, Texas; Goffstown, N.H.; and Hazel Dell of Vancouver, Wash.

The Arabian Little League team from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, has been to the World Series four times since 1991, though they never advanced past the semifinals. And Maracaibo, Venezuela, has sent teams to the series nine times since 1965, winning the championship in 1994.

The first game is Sunday afternoon, when Musashi Fuchu of Tokyo, Japan, will play Sierra Maestra of Venezuela.

The championship is next Saturday at 4:30 p.m., and will be shown live on ABC.

Little League Baseball is the largest organized youth sports program in the world, with nearly 3 million participants in 104 countries.