August 8, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
What the TV Cameras Didn’t Show You

Behind the Scenes at the Intermediate World Series (13U)

By Mark S. McDonald
Editor, sportsandoutdoors.guru

LIVERMORE, Calif. – If you followed the Little League Intermediate World Series here last week, you already know that West region champ Nogales, Ariz., defeated Puerto Rico 11-4 in the final.

Families supporting Midland, Texas’ Little League Intermediate team gather behind the dugout to greet their kids after the club was eliminated from the World Series by Berlin, Maryland. Hard to tell their favorite team lost. (photos by the editor)

Families supporting Midland, Texas’ Little League Intermediate team gather behind the dugout to greet their kids after the club was eliminated from the World Series by Berlin, Maryland. Hard to tell their favorite team lost. (photos by the editor)

It could be said that Nogales stands above all 13-and-under teams, not among all so-called “select” travel teams, but kids from the same neighborhood.

Runner-up on the U.S. side of the bracket was East (Berlin, MD), followed by Southwest (Midland, Texas). What you may not know, however, is worthy of note. Follow the bouncing ball:

 

 

 

Tournament staff and volunteers worked overtime to provide a safe, enjoyable setting. The diamond itself was immaculate. Each game, hundreds gathered in lawn chairs to watch.

Tournament staff and volunteers worked overtime to provide a safe, enjoyable setting. The diamond itself was immaculate. Each game, hundreds gathered in lawn chairs to watch.

(*) The local Little League here knocked itself out to totally remake the ballpark, importing new seats in the outfield, covering the grandstands, raising the level and placing bark on the ground beyond the outfield fence to accommodate picnic-style seating. For the playing surface, locals sought advice from Clay Wood, head groundskeeper of the Oakland A’s. The preparation was spot-on. I watched six games here last week, and never saw one bad hop.

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Midland, Texas manager Andy Bayley addresses the troops after they just trimmed Southeast region champ Barboursville, W.V. Always more fun to win.

Midland, Texas manager Andy Bayley addresses the troops after they just trimmed Southeast region champ Barboursville, W.V. Always more fun to win.

(*) LL’s website reads that the championship final drew 6,500. The bleachers hold 600 and they were not full. Hmmm. LL sold corporate sponsorship packages to the likes of Kellog’s Frosted Flakes, Easton and Subway, so view the announced attendance with a skeptical squint.

(*) Security hardly left room for oxygen. If a ballplayer needed to pee, he had to ask the base umpire closest to his dugout to leave the bench. Ump would stop the game, escort the kid to the nearest gate, no more than 4-5 strides away. At the gate, the player was met by a tournament official who escorted him to the toilet. Once the embarrassed player emptied out, reverse the process, complete with yet another stoppage of play. Does LL fear a kidnapping? A political defection? No word on whether the player had to request toilet paper. Kids are 13, some 14, going into their freshman year of high school, remember. {Fill in wisecrack here.}

(*) Puerto Rico, overall, had the most physically mature players, and some of the best-fed. Many appear to be nearly full-grown, standing +/- 5-9 and weighing 160-170 pounds. One jug-butt already weighs north of 220.

(*) Best team won. Nogales had a strong balance of speed, defense and pitching. Most of all, the Arizonians were highly aggressive on the bases, keeping pressure on the defense, taking advantage of even minor bobbles. Good coaching to promote a hungry attitude.

Asia-Pacific’s strong entry from Korea took its semifinal defeat to Caracao with grace, gathering on the foul line to bow to fans in unison. But the pain of being eliminated from the World Series knows no geographic boundaries.

Asia-Pacific’s strong entry from Korea took its semifinal defeat to Caracao with grace, gathering on the foul line to bow to fans in unison. But the pain of being eliminated from the World Series knows no geographic boundaries.

(*) Every team here had its minor flaws and deficiencies. Just as quality pitching is a staple among good teams, so too is catching. An earnest, hard-working catcher was a common thread among the winning teams. None of the top contenders survived late in the bracket without an excellent kid behind the plate. If you’re a coach thinking of putting together a roster built to last, you need two catchers. And they had better be good ones.

(*) Most intriguing prospects wore the black jerseys of East (Berlin, Maryland). Don’t care where you went to school. Pitcher-shortstop Tristan McDonough could play for your high school varsity next year – as an 8th grader. Pitcher Wes Powell has a good arm and competitive will, and he’s still a baby. The kid is grandson of former Baltimore Oriole slugger John Wesley “Boog” Powell.

(*) Between innings, it’s common for age-group coaches to call the players together for a brief monologue. Korea takes it to a higher level. As players near the dugout, they come to full-dress attention, hands clasped behind their backs, awaiting words of wisdom from the coach.

Once teams were eliminated, they were free to gather at the hotel shared by all. Here, players from Korea, Caracao, Canada and Texas gather to play baseball using a ball made of sponge or plastic. Throwing a ball against the hotel wall soared in popularity, too. Rules? Players made them up as they went along.

Once teams were eliminated, they were free to gather at the hotel shared by all. Here, players from Korea, Caracao, Canada and Texas gather to play baseball using a ball made of sponge or plastic. Throwing a ball against the hotel wall soared in popularity, too. Rules? Players made them up as they went along.

(*) Between games, players would gather on the lawn of the team hotel for friendly games of whiffle ball. Kids from the Czech Republic chose instead to play soccer. “Fute-bol,” they call it. More intriguing was a game in which kids would throw a rubber ball against the hotel wall. Rules, methinks, were made up as they played. Not sure how it was received by hotel management, but it was gratifying to see the lawn vibrant with kids from Korea, Caracao, Canada and Midland, Texas.

 

 

 

 

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Players were allowed to keep their jerseys; not their game pants. Anybody want the Midland, Texas hand-me-downs?

Players were allowed to keep their jerseys; not their game pants. Anybody want the Midland, Texas hand-me-downs?

(*) Players on each team got to keep their game jerseys. Not so, the white britches. At least they once were white. When the Midland, Texas team sat in the bleachers waiting for its next game, the damage was done.

(*) Maryland catcher Matthew Kinsey is not only a hustle-guy receiver, a capable right-hand hitter and the “glue” of his team, he’s a 6-handicap golfer. While seldom playing and rarely practicing, the kid between games here shot an 82 from the middle tees at Pebble Beach. Sighhhhh.

Having just finished third on the U.S. side of the World Series bracket, players from Midland, Texas were disappointed but saluted by their families and fans.

Having just finished third on the U.S. side of the World Series bracket, players from Midland, Texas were disappointed but saluted by their families and fans

Having coached 22 summers of youth baseball, from church league coach-pitch to a Connie Mack travel team of fire-breathing dragons, the editor has found his rightful place in the stands. There, he is researching his next book: “They Gave Us Baseball: Now Look What We’ve Done,” to be released in 2015. His teams never made it to a World Series.

 

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