Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Thursday, Aug. 18, 2011
Baseball, it has been said, is "America's pastime."
But to someone ambling around the town of Williamsport, Pa., on Aug. 17, that legendary moniker seemed surprisingly near-sighted.
During the past four days, the quaint Central Pennsylvania town has become a culturally diverse mecca, accommodating Little Leaguers from across the world for one reason: to play baseball. For most, the first pitch can't come soon enough.
"I've just been in such a hyper mood," said Gustavo Leon of the Middle East and Africa Region Champions (MEA) team. "We're just finally ready to get out and see what this is all about."
American teams felt a similar sentiment, as well.
Brad Bates, manager of the Great Lakes team said, "We just want to start playing."
Wednesday night's "Grand Slam Parade" was the first introduction to the throng of World Series goers and an opportunity for players and coaches alike to alleviate some of that cooped-up anxiety. The annual four-mile trek through Williamsport allowed the teams to get a preliminary glimpse of the publicity that will inevitably follow throughout the tournament."
With two teams to a float, the players laughed and waved, wide-eyed and grinning, as they passed through the city by hundreds of enthused onlookers.
"I'm super pumped up," said Hadi Fadlallah, catcher for the MEA team from Saudi Arabia. "It's definitely the first feel of the energy and the crowd."
Not every team, however, needed to be familiarized with the buzz of the Little League World Series.
The Mid-Atlantic Region representative hails from Keystone Little League in Clinton County, Pa. — a mere 20 miles from Williamsport. Many players and coaches had attended the parade before, but from opposite perspectives.
The World Series had not seen a team with such deep local roots in 63 years. That year, 1948, hometown favorites from Lock Haven Little League took the crown.
"There's going to be a crazy amount of people here to cheer us on," said Justin Kline, coach for the Mid-Atlantic team. "Little League Baseball is huge around here — to have a local team, it absolutely takes everything to a new level. Everyone is jumping on board, giving us their support.
"Who knows, we may not see it again for another 63 years," he said.
Sixteen teams — eight from the United States and, eight from anywhere and everywhere else — begin the 11-day tournament Thursday.
Many traveled across continents to get here; another hardly skipped a county. But despite their myriad of backgrounds and their diverse geographical origins, tomorrow the quest becomes the same: winning the world championship.
"Once you get to Williamsport," said Bates, "you finally realize just how big of a deal this is."