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Little League provides a world of opportunities

When August rolls around each year, I often find myself watching the Little League World Series. It’s a tradition with my brother that’s stretched back at least as far back as my middle school days. Sometimes we try to catch the softball series too, though I always seem to miss most of that one.

Neither my brother or I have played much baseball/softball ourselves outside of a few summers playing with a church softball league when we were kids. The field where we used to run the bases has long since ceased operations and is just a farmer’s field of crops now. But we always had a lot of fun even if our team (the combined Bethel-Elam church team from Gumberry) didn’t win all the time. We’re still friends with some of our former teammates today.

So we were never Little Leaguers, but we do like watching them on TV. Maybe it’s partially because it’s the only sport to watch while we’re waiting for football season to start, but probably it’s just nice to see kids having fun. It’s different than watching professional or college sports where winning is often more important than having a good time.

Little League is fun because it’s clear they’re having a good time. And personally, I’m just a fan of good displays of sportsmanship. That’s another thing that’s also lacking in professional athletes.

We pick out our favorites early each year. This year, we’ve had our eye on the teams from Minnesota, Virginia, and New Jersey. Of course, I always enjoy watching the Japanese team play too. Mexico is usually entertaining as well. ESPN does a great job of letting viewers get to know the players. In fact, the player introductions at the beginning of each game might actually be my favorite part as they usually add fun facts about themselves. No matter what language they speak or what part of the world they live in, pre-teen boys always have favorite foods, favorite players, and favorite emojis in common.

Actually, I think the best part about the Little League World Series is that it provides an opportunity for so many new people to meet. For some of these players, perhaps this is their first and only chance to interact face to face with people from different countries. I can only imagine the conversations that happen when players bump into each other off the field. Maybe they’ll take a new appreciation of a different culture back home with them. We need more of that in the world.

It’s pretty cool to see other events which take place during the tournament too. The day that major league players come out to show their support is always fun. The Japanese team, for example, had the opportunity to meet and get autographs from Yu Darvish, a fellow Japanese player who represents their country here in America now.

This past week there was even a “Kids Cast” broadcast of a game, giving young aspiring sports broadcasters the opportunity to get some real world experience. So instead of hearing the usual older commentators and side-line reporters, we got to see some enthusiastic young people instead. Needless to say, it was an entertaining game both on and off the field.

I wish there were more sports which did this kind of event each year, bringing together young people from all around the world. Or maybe other sports do these kinds of big competitions that I don’t know about. If so, put it on my television, ESPN! I’d love to watch more.

Children all over the country (and the world) participate in a variety of youth sports. Not everyone gets a chance to head to fields like Williamsport, PA. But they still play, have fun, and learn a lot along the way.

By the time you read this column, this year’s event will be close to reaching its conclusion. Then we’re back to waiting another year for August to arrive, so they can do it all over again.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.