Chew on this
Canada rolls along as Nick Rohla enjoys his gum


By Mark Rogoff

The Little League Baseball World Series annually provides a collection of cool and heartwarming stories to fans of America’s Pastime. It also offers some of the more unusual stories to these same fans. Eleven- and 12-year-old kids who are representing their country or region are easy catalysts for these often odd anecdotes.

As of Monday, August 22, 2005, we now just might be able to say we’ve seen it all.

You see, Canada’s Nick Rohla loves chewing gum. He is also very superstitious. When you put the two together, you guessed it, he chews the same piece of gum day after day after day. If it ain’t broke don’t fix right, right?

Right.

The tale of this love affair between Nick and his gum begins on his Whalley All-Stars’ plane ride to Toronto for the Canada championship tournament. It was Wednesday, August 3, just one day after an Air France jet crashed upon landing at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

“I was just chewing this gum, and our plane didn’t crash when we landed in Toronto, so it was lucky,” Nick said.

The gum stayed in his mouth from then on – from when he woke up in the morning until he went to sleep at night.

The Canada championships began three days later, and the representatives from British Columbia claimed a 7-0 win in the tourney opener vs. Nova Scotia. They then won 9-0 against Timmins, Ontario and 8-6 vs. Regina, Saskatchewan.

A hairy situation
Think this gum story is strange? Try this one on for size: Nick Rohla and a handful of his teammates were sporting really long hair going into the provincial championships in Canada. The league president said it had to go before the tournament got underway.

What happened to that hair?

“We cut it off and we kept it,” Nick said. “It’s in a bag now. It’s in our baseball bags now.”
The Whalley All-Stars went on to win three more, including the title game against Toronto High Park Little League. There was a loss during pool play, a 4-1 setback at the hands of the same Toronto tots.

But nonetheless, the gum was working, and Nick had no intentions of its disposal.

“So yeah, we ended up winning that tournament,” Nick said. “And we came here, and our plane didn’t crash again so it makes it more lucky.”

Well, that luck was running out once Nick and his teammates arrived at the Creighton J. Hale International Grove on the Little League complex. Perhaps it was the change of scenery and the unfamiliar surroundings.

At Canada’s first supper in the decorated halls of the café, Nick mistakenly left his gum on his dinner tray and disposed of it without thinking to put it in its rightful place.

“We arrived here Monday and I lost it Monday night,” he said. “It was devastating. I tried to find it, but I couldn’t. I looked in the garbage.”

Some may say it was a blessing in disguise.

“By the time we left to come here it was basically brown,” Nick said. “I think it was rotting. I think I had a rotted piece of food in there, but I’m not sure.”

Yuck.

Anyway…

Nick started chewing on a new piece of gum, and has added to it – first a purple piece, then a green piece. This collection of stickiness has stuck for a while now. He’s still chewing this piece all day every day, and the luck carried on through Canada’s first pool play game, which it won 2-0 over Mexico Saturday.

The Whalley All-Stars did lose their second round-robin game, dropping a 5-0 decision to Guam Sunday, but they sit in decent shape to advance to single-elimination play. A win vs. Russia on Tuesday would in all likelihood get them out of pool play.

Regardless of the outcome, Nick has a lasting treasure he can cherish for the rest of his life.

“I’m going to frame it,” he said. “That would be cool.”

Nick also said his World Series gum will not be added to the baseball-sized gumball he has at home in Surrey. That one sits on his bedpost collecting dust. And, no, he does not still chew on that bundle of sugar.

What do Nick’s teammates think of him?

“I don’t know what they think (of me),” he said. “They’re crazy. They probably think I’m crazy.”

Teammate and best friend Richard Lankmayr chimed in on his thoughts.

“He’s just a little bit of a freak,” he said. “I’m a freak, too, and two freaks attract and we’re best friends. It’s perfect.”

Richard also got in on the act when he started chewing a piece of gum that he received just before the rescheduled Opening Ceremonies Sunday. He said he is going to try and keep it like his best bud, but has no plans of adding on to it.

Manager Glenn Morache says Richard’s “freak” label is a little much.

“No, I wouldn’t classify them as freaks,” he said. “Everybody has their little superstitions. It’s just one thing that they do. They’re just great kids. They have all been fun, and we let them have fun.”

Fun is the name of the game at the tournament. After all, when fun can stem from chewing gum of all things, you know all is well in the rolling hills of north-central Pennsylvania.

If you’re Nick’s dentist back home in Surrey, don’t worry, he says he’s brushing his teeth every morning and every night.

 


© 2005, Little League Baseball Incorporated
Please direct comments about this website to webmaster@littleleague.org.