Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date: Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012
Little Little, Big League, Major League. What do all of these things have in common?
The team from Tamaulipas, Mexico, of course.
It all started when Mexico team translator Sergio Guzman and current Baltimore Orioles pitcher
Luis Ayala played in the Big League World Series together in Easly, S.C. While their team did not win the games that year, their bond of friendship far outlasted the Series. Little did either know who the other would grow up to be. Sergio went on to become the Spanish to English translator for this year's Mexico Little League World Series team while Ayala would go on to become a Major League Baseball player.
Why is this important? You'll see shortly.
Luis Ayala first began his professional baseball career in 1997 as a 19-year-old playing in the Mexican Baseball League with Saltillo as a relief pitcher. In 1999, Ayala was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Colorado Rockies, only to be traded back to Saltillo in 2001. Ayala's first professional debut occurred in March, 2003, for the Montreal Expos. Since then Ayala has played with the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Florida Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, New York Yankees and was most recently signed to the Baltimore Orioles on February 10, 2012.
Well, remember that Guzman and Ayala played ball together back in the day, right? And that they maintained their friendship over the years, right? Now enter the champions from Mexico, Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. This team earned their Little League World Series berth by defeating Satellite Little League from Juarez, Chihuahua, 3-1, in the Mexico Regional tournament championship game. The team finished the five-day tournament with a 9-1 record, making them the fifth national team to make it to the Little League World Series. Only three teams from Mexico have ever won the tournament in South Williamsport before, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas hopes to become the fourth.
"Yes, players have called the teams before and wished them good luck over conference calls, but Luis was the first one to ever make his way down into the complex personally."-- Mexican Team Translator Sergio Guzman
What better way to boost a team of 14 Little League ballplayers' spirits than by having a Major League baseball player come visit you?
"It was very exciting for all of the kids. A Major League ballplayer takes time out of his day to come and see them," said Guzman.
As it would be, Ayala was the first Mexican professional baseball player to ever visit a team at the Little League World Series.
"Yes, players have called the teams before and wished them good luck over conference calls, but Luis was the first one to ever make his way down into the complex personally," noted Guzman.
Not only did the kids get a face-to-face visit with the Baltimore Orioles pitcher but he also sent them baseball gloves from his own personal line.
And what did the team think of this high profile professional baseball player visiting them pre-series? "It was cool," said Mexico right fielder and pitcher Omar Cervantes. "We all know who he is, so it was nice."
Cervantes may be experiencing his first Little League World Series for himself this year, but he is certainly no stranger to the games. In 2010, Omar's brother Norberto Cervantes Jr. and his Nuevo Laredo, Tamualipas, team made the journey to South Williamsport to participate in the games as well. So having an older brother who has already been to the series and experienced the surroundings has to be useful.
"He told me to take short baths in the dorms," chuckled Omar.
It seems as though Omar and his team need little advice or help dealing with the pressure of playing in the games. These boys have been friends and playing with each other since they were toddlers.
"Sometimes I get a little nervous," said Omar, "but I just don't look at the crowd, then I'm not."
This team is definitely on the right track in this 2012 World Series. While their first game took a disappointing twist, a 13-9 loss to Canada, the boys still had a stellar game with four home runs making them a standout offensive team. In their second game against Lugazi, Uganda, of Middle East-Africa, Mexico showed their prowess, defeating the first-time Little League World Series team in four innings, 12-0, adding another four homers to notch in their World Series belts.
Mexico now awaits their next game against the Asia-Pacific champions from Taoyuan, Chinese Taipei on Monday at 6 p.m.