Take The Long Way Home
Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date: Sunday, August 22, 2010 ET
The West region champions from Waipio Little League in Waipahu, Hawaii had a long way to go to get to South Williamsport, Pa. In fact, five little leagues in the international bracket had a shorter distance to travel than the representatives of the US West. That leaves just three teams further away than Hawaii's 4,806 travel miles.
But more than just distance affects these Little Leaguers and their families back at home. These kids and their managers haven't been back to The Aloha State since August 4, and they won't be going home soon either, if they can help it.
"We left Honolulu and went to California [for the regional] and we didn't go back," said manager Brian Yoshii. "I didn't get to go home [before coming here]."
After winning their regional tournament in San Bernadino, the team hopped on a flight to Philly and then a bus ride to Williamsport. That was Tuesday, August 17. But will it be a joyful return when they do go back? Do the boys miss their island home?
"No," echoed a chorus of little voices.
Of course not.
EXTRA INNINGS: The next furthest domestic representative at the 2010 Little League World Series is Auburn Little League out of Auburn, Washington (Northwest)… The three teams further from Williamsport than Waipahu, Hawaii are Japan's Edogawa Minami Little League (6,640 miles), the MEA's Arabian American Little League (6,684 miles) and Asia-Pacific's Fu-Hsing Little League (7,894 miles)… Of the 16 teams here, 12 have traveled 1,000 or more miles to get to the 2010 Series… The closest distance for any team from hometown to Williamsport is 234 miles (Toms River, New Jersey)… Fairfield American Little League out of Fairfield, Conn. has just nine miles on the Toms River crew (243 miles).
Greg Steisslinger, who played in the 1985 Little League World Series for Morristown American Little League from Morristown, Tenn., threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Sunday's Hawaii-New Jersey game to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his appearance. Morristown lost to a team from Mexicali, Mexico in the semifinals and beat Canada to finish the tournament in third place.
Only one other team from Tennessee has played in the World Series since Steisslinger and his team played here. Another all-star club from Morristown American played in Williamsport in 1987.
Text Me :)
Just as many of the other regional champs have talked with Major League Baseball players from their respective countries, states and towns, the Hawaii Little Leaguers got their own words of encouragement from their resident pro.
Philadelphia Phillies' outfielder Shane Victorino, a native of Wailuku, Hawaii, got in touch with the West champs earlier this week, calling manager Brain Yoshii's cell phone to chat with the kids, give advice and wish them the best.
And just before taking the field in Sunday's game against the Mid-Atlantic, a text message popped up on Yoshii's phone:
"Good luck today. Tell the boys to play fundamental baseball. -Shane"
And don't worry, he was watching the game too, sending a congratulatory text message as soon as the result was final.
Nothing like a major leaguers as your No. 1 fan.
Hip Hip What?
Travelers to South Williamsport may not have much time this week to watch broadcasting from the ESPN family of networks. However, they have obviously done their fair share of viewing before coming to the Little League World Series, as has been evidenced by the cheers coming from two different fan bases.
Jorge Perez of Mexico and Jorge Gutierrez of Texas have enjoyed chants of "Hip Hip, Jorge!" as they come to the plate. The chant became popular when ESPN began airing a commercial featuring the Yankees' Jorge Posada in which ESPN employees chant the catchphrase as he walks down a hallway of offices.
Speaking of celebrities at the Little League World Series, what the players don't know is that in one short summer, they each have become one.As Toms River Little League manager Paul Deceglie mentioned when talking about all the things he'll remember and take away from this experience, among the unwavering memories was "the celebrity status that [the players] have, that they don't even know they have, when they go back home."