By Lucas Friedman
Hundreds of parents gather in Williamsport every year to watch their kids compete in the Little League World Series.
However, one mother from Peachtree, Ga., Yuki Braxton, comes to Williamsport with an experience like no other.
Yuki is here to watch her son, Tai Peete, represent the Southeast Region on the world’s biggest stage. However, unlike many of the mothers and fathers in attendance, Yuki herself was once a Little Leaguer® as well. Born in Canada, Yuki moved to Vienna, Austria, in the 1990s. While she was living there, Yuki played in the 1993 and 1994 Little League European Region Championships.
Yuki was one of two girls, and the first-ever to participate in the tournament. She developed a love for baseball from a young age. Both her grandfather and her father were baseball players. Baseball brought Yuki and her father together, as it has the ability to do with families from all parts of the world.
“I used to spend hours on the field with him whether it was at my Little League practices or games, watching him umpire baseball games or coach the Austrian national team,” Yuki said.
In the 90’s, baseball was new to Europe and Yuki described the struggles to find the proper means to play games.
“It was quite difficult to get our hands on equipment,” she explained. “I remember in the beginning playing on soccer fields that were converted into baseball diamonds.”
In fact, the regional tournaments back then were held on military bases in Germany. Many of the coaches were expatriates or marines, so the European tournament was truly not like any other.
“You can imagine what an experience it was to be two girls amongst a few hundred boys from around the world, housed on a military base for a week and a half, to play baseball,” Yuki said. “I have so many incredible childhood memories from those two summers.”
Since 1994, the Little League Baseball World Series has greatly expanded, doubling the number of participating teams from eight to 16. A total of nine new nations have made it to Williamsport as well. The growing diversity in the event has given American players like Tai a way to use baseball to connect with kids from other cultures around the world. It makes this tournament mean much more than just winning.
Tai now gets the chance to do what his mother never got to, compete in the Little League World Series. Tai owes a lot of his baseball talent to his other parent, Eric Peete, training him since he started walking. He even built a batting cage in his backyard so Tai could hit whenever he wants.
Thankful for what his parents have provided him, Tai has taken advantage of the rare opportunity to play in Williamsport. Tai has an exuberant personality, and has not been shy to interact with players from all over.
On the field, Tai is a leader on a strong Peachtree (Ga.) City American Little League team. He exhibits a passion for the game, one that can be credited to the way his parents raised him.
“He’s definitely a leader,” said manager Patrick Gloriod, “He’s super fiery, he’s super positive, and he’s just unbelievable.”
With Georgia in the hunt for a championship, Tai is certainly giving his mother something to be proud of while she reminisces on her experience as a Little Leaguer.