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Meeting players from around the globe, playing on major-league quality fields, and seeing your highlights on ESPN—a trip to Williamsport is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a dream for every 12-year old baseball player.
“It’s been great—we’ve met new people and we’re being treated well (by) everyone,” said Latin America pitcher and outfielder Daniel Polo via team interpreter Gilbert Monell. “We are treated well in Panama, but seeing the way people treat us here is special.”
Life for these Little Leaguers® has certainly changed during the World Series, compared to what they’re used to back in their home countries.
“We were training, regular life at school, and doing homework,” said Australia second baseman Danny Ivester. “No one really knew about us.”
“It’s a lot different from two weeks ago with all the stuff we’ve been going through,” said Latin America second baseman Jose Gonzalez. “It’s special for us.”
Not only are the players’ lifestyles different, but their playing conditions are much improved. Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Little League Volunteer Stadium are fields of dreams for these pre-teens.
“We’re in baseball paradise,” said Australia coach Wayne Sheldon. “Everything is so pretty.”
“Even the training fields are better than every field we’ve played on in Perth,” agreed Ivester.
“The atmosphere is incredible,” chimed in Australia third baseman Jake Sheldon.
With the lights shining brighter than ever, it is important for coaches to keep their teams’ eyes on the prize, but also have fun.
“They’re kids and they’re not used to this,” noted manager Gonzalez. “I remind them the reason why they’re here.”
On the field, players are competitors, but within The Grove (the gated community in which all sixteen teams live) everyone is on the same team.
“It’s been nice meeting other kids from around the world,” said Ivester. “We’re making new friends.”
“Spending time with kids from other countries,” answered Polo when asked about his favorite part of his trip to South Williamsport thus far.
“It’s good to see them interact together—there are no language barriers,” said Sheldon. “They can’t speak each other’s language, but they’re having fun together and they know how to communicate.”
Inside The Grove is where the majority of the players hang out with the luxury of an in-ground pool and large recreation room. Outside the gates is where the players interact with family, friends, and fans. In addition to ground balls on the baseball diamond, the players also field some pretty strange questions.
“Have you been bitten by a crocodile,” Ivester was asked by one fan because Invester is from Perth, Australia.
That wasn’t the strangest question asked to an Australian player, though. Jake Sheldon was asked if he and his teammates ride kangaroos to school.
As bizarre as some of the questions may be, the players enjoy interacting with all the fellow players and fans.
People may not have known much about these players prior to the Little League Baseball World Series, but they know now.
“It’s like we’ve never imagined it could be,” said Sheldon. “We’re living the dream.”