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Aussies Making Most of Their Time in U.S. for First Little League Baseball® World Series
By Colin Brown
A trip to South Williamsport is not all about baseball—well, for the most part, it is—but the possibilities beyond the baseball field are endless. Just ask the Little Leaguers® from Perth, Australia.
On Friday morning, the team from “down under” journeyed over the bridge to Williamsport’s Susquehanna Health’s Divine Providence Hospital to share their good cheer with several cancer patients.
“It felt really good to make them smile,” pitcher and outfielder Shane Turner said. “We came here to play baseball, but it’s good to get out and see America.”
“It feels nice because we made someone feel nice and we’ve given something back to the community,” second baseman Daniel Ivester said.
“Life’s about making a difference, and today we made a difference to some patients (and) also to the good people that help the patients through what they’re going through,” manager Glen Tovey said.
Ivester relished bringing laughter and fun to patients who don’t get the joy of meeting Australian ball players very often. But the unanimous memorable moment was meeting one special patient named Gale.
“Seeing that (Gale) had a smile on her face the second that we walked in,” third baseman Jake Sheldon answered when asked to pinpoint his favorite part of the day.
“She was beaming as soon as we walked in,” Tovey added. It was the manager’s idea to spend some time at the hospital—a thought that sparked before the team departed from Australia and developed into a plan once Tovey spoke with volunteer team host Marlin Cromley. Back at home, Tovey and his family regularly give back to the community—feeding the homeless and supporting the battered women’s shelter—two causes that his family holds dear.
“We were initially planning on going to a pediatric health unit to see the children—fortunately, at this time, there weren’t many pediatric patients in need,” Tovey said. “So (it) was deemed by the head of the department that the cancer department was a place that we could make a difference.”
The team was also able to venture throughout the complex and meet some boys closer to their own ages who are dealing with other conditions.
“There were some young men who were rehabbing in the physiotherapy center—or the sports science center—they took us to,” Tovey said. “(It) was good to see the young boys in there trying to overcome injuries and illness.”
Friday’s act of kindness wasn’t the first for the friendly Australians. At the beginning of the tournament, the team offered a helping hand—or mitt—to the Southeast team from Nashville, Tenn., for the team’s first game.
“Southeast didn’t have their gear so we lent them our gloves,” coach Wayne Sheldon said. “We lent them all of our gear.”
“They traveled from their (regional) tournament, but their gear went in the wrong plane and they got it later that night,” Ivester explained.
The Aussies have set their bats and gloves aside for the past few days, as they played their third and final official game of the 2013 Little League Baseball® World Series on Monday morning. The team took advantage of their first day off, traveling to New York to catch a big league game at Yankee Stadium.
All three players and their manager unanimously agreed that the experience was “awesome” and the team had a scenic view of the field from their prime seats. The Yankees defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 8-4, and satisfied Sheldon, who was at the first major league game of his life.
“It was amazing—I’ve always wanted to go to a major league game and to see my favorite team was awesome,” said Sheldon, whose nickname is “The Bertram Bomber”—a hybrid of Sheldon’s hometown of Bertram (a suburb of Perth) and the Yankees’ moniker “Bronx Bombers.” Sheldon left New York with a smile beaming from ear-to-ear and a new addition to his closet—a t-shirt with “Bronx Bomber” printed across the chest. Sheldon and his teammates also witnessed Sheldon’s favorite Yankee, Robinson Cano, hit the 200th home run of his career.
Ivester’s favorite player also plays second base, but for New York’s rival, the Boston Red Sox. Even as a Fenway Faithful, Ivester savored the experience, saying that he loved going to Yankee Stadium. Tovey enjoyed seeing both a great player for the first time and an old friend for the first time in a while.
“Seeing Mariano Rivera pitch in a game—I’ve been to over 150 major league games but had never seen Mariano Rivera pitch,” Tovey said about the highlight of his day. “Also, I ran into a guy that I played baseball with in Perth.”
The Aussies have certainly made the most of their time in the States. As the inaugural Australian team to participate in the World Series, they hope that their showing in South Williamsport will pave the way in the years to come for baseball back home.
“We were here on a business trip, but more importantly we’re here to help grow the game in Australia and give it a greater profile,” Tovey said. “Being able to gain more exposure and even pick up more of a following in Australia I think is really going to help the game.”