Welcome to the 2009 World Series
63rd Little League World Baseball World Series Steps off With Annual Grand Slam Parade
The notes of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” meandered their way through downtown Williamsport, Pa., Thursday evening as the popular Little League Grand Slam Parade passed by thousands of bystanders.
Sixteen teams and 192 Little Leaguers from around the globe have gathered at the Little League International Complex to compete for the title of Little League Baseball world champion.
Eight teams from the United States and eight international teams have made it to their accommodations at the Creighton J. Hale International Grove on the complex.
The teams are ready to start playing at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Little League Volunteer Stadium—the fields they grew up watching the Little League World Series on television.
“It feels great on TV, but it’s more exciting—you have more feelings—when you’re here in real life than you do watching it on TV,” said Hunter Phillips, playing for Warner Robins (Ga.) American Little League representing the U.S. Southeast Region.
It’s a feeling held not only by teams from the U.S.
“They were watching on TV, but now they’re actually playing for it,” Kuei-Shan Little League of Chinese Taipei translator Ming-Heung Yeh said, for players Cheng-Chieh Lee and Yuan-Ting Tai. “So it’s beginning to get really exciting.”
“Obviously it looks very nice on TV, but it’s definitely a great experience here. It’s a dream come true, especially for a manager who has a son on this team,” said Augustin Montoya, manager of Guadalupe Trevino Kelly Little League from Mexico, through translator Sergio Guzman.
The excitement among the players and coaches is about equal, but in the end, they say, it is about the Little Leaguers themselves.
“My mom and dad gave me a glove and a bat when I was four years old,” said Jorge Maldonado, one of Montoya’s players. “I’ve been looking forward to this ever since.”
“It’s really different because you never think that you’d be the person playing in that game,” said Santee Jackson, a center fielder playing his first year of Little League for Germany’s KMC American Little League of Ramstein Air Base.
The players, coaches and managers got acquainted with each other Thursday night with a picnic followed by the parade. Eight trucks carried the 16 teams through downtown Williamsport—one American team and one international team on each—to the sounds of welcoming cheers from both local residents and relatives of the players who had made the trip.
“It’s just so exciting because we’ve been living baseball year-round for years,” said Laurie Scieszinski, whose son Cole plays third base and catcher for Urbandale Little League (Iowa). “This is just so cool to have a whole town that supports it.”
Just like all the 11- and 12-year-olds playing for this year’s Little League World Series, they are in awe to be able to watch their children compete in person.
“I can remember my son being three years old and watching it with me, and he was excited about watching it,” said Laurie’s husband, Doug. “I’m like, maybe someday you’ll get to be here—and now he does.”
On Friday morning, the teams will attend a hitting clinic hosted by All-Sytate Insurance and featuring 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and former Boston Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice. Afterward, they will attend opening ceremonies at Little League Volunteer Stadium.
Then the games begin.
At 1 p.m., South Shore National Little League (N.Y.) will take on Mercer Island Little League (Wash.) to kick off the Little League World Series. Tha tgame will be followed by the first international game at 3 p.m. between Kuei-Shan Little League of Chinese Taipei and KMC American Little League of Germany; Urbandale Little League (Iowa) versus Warner Robins American Little League (Ga.) at 5 p.m.; and Peabody Western Little League (Mass.) against McAllister Park American Little League (Texas) at 8 p.m.