2011 Little League Baseball World Series
Williamsport, Pennsylvania - August 18 - 28

Day 8: Notebook

The Man in Sportsmanship

Author: Allie Weinberger, Ryan Lewis and Alex Duke

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Thursday, August 26, 2011

Wednesday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Mexico pitcher Carlos Arellano plunked Venezuela's Albaro Gaince, the first batter of the game. In a great display of genuine sportsmanship, Arellano immediately walked off the mound, without hesitation, and over to first base where he extended his arm and took Gaince's hand, shaking it and ensuring that Gaince was alright.

It wasn’t the only display of good sportsmanship at the Little League Baseball World Series in 2011, not even close. Take Rhode Island pitcher/shortstop Jacob Glod. Despite giving up a 3-0 lead to the Netherlands in a Tuesday consolation game before leaving the hill with a 4-3 deficit, the now-shortstop didn’t think twice before offering a high five to European slugger Phayson Antonia as he rounded the bases after hitting a three-run blast just two batters later.

And New England manager David Belisle wasn’t a bit surprised that it happened.

Teaching his players things like that is a part of Belisle’s greater philosophy on coaching. And he’s had a lot of practice at perfecting it. He and father Bill are Rhode Island high school coaching legends, having guided 28 Mount St. Charles ice hockey teams to state titles and nine players to NHL careers since 1980. He’s been coaching Cumberland Little Leaguers for 13 years now as well, since his oldest of four sons was on the team.

“I don’t want [these kids] to be in the spotlight and know they’re in a big spotlight. It shouldn’t be like that when you’re 12,” said Belisle. “I just want them to be themselves, so why go out there and put more pressure on them by saying something like, ‘hey c’mon, we need a strike.’”

“Focus them on how good they are and on what they’ve already accomplished,” he continued. “I tell them to stay focused on what’s at hand, and if you don’t do it, it’s not a big deal. It really isn’t. And if you do fail, you’ve got your friends to pick you up. That’s the message I try to send – that you’re not by yourself.”

And Belisle’s team has obviously responded to that message. As Glod walked from the mound out to the dirt between second and third, the infield circled around him, literally enveloping the distraught Glod inside them, picking their teammate back up just as they’ve been taught.

And just minutes later, there was Antonia, and there was Glod’s hand, raised and waiting to congratulate a player he didn’t know on the blast.

“These kids, whenever someone’s hit a home run against them, they’ve always given a high five,” said Belisle. “What I’ve always told them is that if we get beat, it’s probably because that team is better, so let’s shake their hand.”

And if you are looking for a broader sense of how a truly star-quality coach handles himself, just talk to Belisle a bit longer. He’ll tell you, and whether he means to or not, he’ll be describing himself.

“You’ve gotta be a good sportsman first. You have to have positive reinforcement before you attack the discipline part,” he said. “And you have to be passionate. You have to be able to make your kids passionate about what they’re doing.

“And I think we’re fair,” he said. “That’s the most important thing – being fair from your number 13 player to your best player. Help them with their weaknesses and spend time with each individual – the same amount of time. You can’t just spend time with your best player. You have to be able to make them feel that they’re all wanted and that they’re all one. I think that’s the key to being a really good coach. The minute you start leaning on one person all the time or two or three people and favoring them, then there’s a separation. We’re going to be a team and we’re gonna be together.”

A part of being fair is also knowing who and what you are dealing with, though. Coaching mites (which Belisle does) is different that coaching little leaguers (which Belisle also does) is different than coaching high school (you get the point). Oh, and he coached Major Little League, Minor Little League and pee wee hockey this year as well.

“You have to be critical, yes, but you’ve gotta know the age group you’re dealing with,” Belisle said. “I can be a lot tougher on teenagers because they know what their responsibilities are. These kids don’t. They need constant reminders. So you have to know the age group and adjust to it.”

The New England champs from Rhode Island may be gone from the Little League World Series, but the way they treat each other and the game is not. Not even close.

Birthday Blast

Mid-Atlantic rightfielder Trebor Nicodemus celebrated his 13th birthday at Howard J. Lamade Stadium Thursday night. Nicodemus spent his first day as a teenager in fashion, receiving lots of heartwarming, preferential treatment from his manager Bill Garbrick.

“I let him beat me in ping pong twice today, and I gave him his first birthday kiss,” said Garbrick. “I told his mother I gave him his first kiss this morning. We did have cake at lunchtime. We didn’t do anything big, but we did have fun with it a lot today. He’s a fun kid.”

Friendly Fans

West manager Jeff Pratto spent some time in neighboring towns antique shopping in his down time here at the Little League World Series, and he has said that the Pennsylvania’s hospitality has extended beyond the South Williamsport grounds.

Although everyone in the surrounding towns was rooting for Keystone, they weren’t necessarily against the West, extending their support and wishing him well.

“There were 40,000 fans [in the stadium tonight], but not 40,000 enemies,” he said following his team’s 2-0 win over the Mid-Atlantic, “and that’s all that matters.”

Neil Diamond ain’t got nothing on them

You may have heard the constant chatter along Japan’s sideline, a rhythmic beat that lasts the entire game.

It’s an ever-constant morale booster that Japan has used to keep a grip lock on the upper hand when it comes to crowd support.

Translated to English, the chant is as follows:
Go Go Go Go Go [last name]
Push push push push push [first name]
Go [OH!] Push [OH!] [first name] Let’s go!
The “Let’s go!” part is particular to Hamamatsu City. “Washoi” is the Japanese word, which is said during a popular festival held in the team’s home city.