The series offers joy. Pure joy. Like that video. Watch these kids. They enjoy the experience, even the opposing team’s achievements.
Little League is pure. No monetary incentives or rewards. The pure athleticism, or not, of its participants. The generosity of the coaches, umpires, refreshment stand staff and others, all of whom volunteer their time. You read about how a little league team can pull together a community in common purpose. How the kids, no matter their nationality, or level of talent or desire for the battle on the field will, when off the field, play, swim and talk together. Cumbaya. We can all get along. Among the teams there this year were China, Uganda, Chinese Taipei, and many others. A United Nations of little league teams.
I watch it every year. Not just the final game. I watch the eliminations in the regionals, which feature a lot of teams who will never make the final few who play for the U.S. and International Championships and then pit the U.S. against the Internationals in the final game. It doesn't matter. It's the experience they get, and the experience we get from watching them.
The boys, this year anyway -- last year, Mo’ne Davis was the star of the series, becoming the first girl to pitch and win a game there -- range in age from 11-13 years old. They have braces on their teeth and the biggest, silvery smiles you’ve ever seen. Mo’ne became a star based on her talent for the game, her amazing personality and presence at such a young age. She won awards for her performance from many far distanced from Little League and wrote a memoir. At 12. (Tangent: it is odd to read a 12-year-old’s Wikipedia entry and see a section on her “early life.”)
I love the Little League game. Want to know why? Just watch the video above. Again.
I sit for hours watching games of teams from cities I’ve never heard of. The kids range in size from about 4 foot 7 and maybe 80 pounds to 5’8 and 180 pounds. Literally, they come in all sizes and colors from all over the world. The broadcasters are upbeat. You never hear a word nor see a player who is unsportsmanlike. The team managers come out to the mound after a pitcher has given up a ton of runs and say more positive things than some kids hear in a year. No yelling, all supportive and mindful of the fact these young kids are still developing who they will be. And this experience will play a big role in shaping who they'll be.
Is it all so positive? I don't know. I only know what I see on TV but I’ll live in that unreality for a few hours a day and watch the pure joy not only of the kid who just hit that long home run, but the joy of the kid who threw the pitch that led to that boomer. That’s the video above. If you haven’t watched it yet—watch it. Or, watch it again. I’ll wait. I mean, how much fun is that?
Japan won Sunday’s world championship. Japan was down eight runs in the first inning in front of about 42,000 fans, 41,900 of whom were rooting against them, favoring their home state Pennsylvania team. I likely won’t remember who won after about a month. I will remember the look on pitcher Mekhi Garrard’s face as he admired Cole Wagner’s huge home run off a pitch Mekhi had just thrown. Doesn’t matter which teams they were on. I mean, watch that pitcher’s face.
It gets no better than that.