Little League World Series 2012: Latest Buzz Surrounding American Tradition
There are things that remind me the summer is winding down: NFL training camps, European soccer transfer rumors and the MLB's Wild Card race.
But nothing says August quite like the Little League World Series, set to begin on August 17.
From a team from Africa finally debuting in Williamsport to a team from California that qualified in a play that could only happen in baseball, I've got some of the best buzz surrounding the tournament heading into play.
The summer is winding down, but the action in Williamsport is just about to heat up.
The Intriguing Team from Petaluma, California
For one thing, the Petaluma squad advanced to the Little League Series on the most curious of calls, advancing after an umpire agreed with an appeal to third base that Braedyn Chong of Nanakuli (Hawaii) missed the bag.
They would've still had a 7-6 lead even if the appeal not been overturned, but with a runner on second base, the result was far from decided. But the team advanced with the help of the appeal.
It also appears they'll travel with the assistance of a famous resident of the town, Oakland A's outfielder Jonny Gomes, who is donating money and trying to raise even more to help the families with kids on the team offset the cost to travel and stay in Williamsport.
"I think it's part of being a professional athlete to use your star status, if you will, or use the media outlets that you're granted, to give back," Gomes said. "If I was lucky enough to go to Williamsport when I was 12, there would be no chance my family would have been able to go on their own dollar, and how bummed out I would be about that."
Little League International covers the trip expenses for players and coaches but not family members. The cost is estimated at $2,500 per person.
Way to go, Jonny Gomes—this is an awesome gesture on your part.
Lugazi Makes Africa's Debut
When you think about the Little League World Series, teams from California, Japan and Latin America probably come to mind.
But teams from Africa? Well, that never happens. Literally.
Until this year. For a great read, be sure to check out an article from ESPN's Jay Shapiro on Uganda's team from Lugazi, making the trip to Williamsport this year, the second African team to ever qualify for the tournament:
The first was also from Uganda, just one year ago, but that team from Kampala never made it to America due to incomplete and sloppy documentation. The effort to get better documents was much better with assistance from the U.S. Embassy and more involvement from Little League International. The Lugazi players will play their first-round game against Panama on Aug. 17.
Way to go, Lugazi. I know I'll be rooting you on in Williamsport, and I know you'll be doing both your country and continent proud.
A Few Tweets to Get You Pumped
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Take me out to the ballgame... with Twitter!
You'd be surprised how many folks pay attention to the Little League World Series. Here a few of my favorite tweets about the annual tournament in Pennsylvania.
Jenn Brown from ESPN is ready to go and cover the event. She leads us off with some beautiful pictures from Williamsport.
Can't wait to start the Little League World Series tomorrow! Just finished getting a tour of the fields... say.ly/gmT3YSc— Jenn Brown (@ESPN_Jenn) August 15, 2012
Pat McAfee, punter for the Indianapolis Colts, made me LOL with this tweet:
How am I supposed to be impressed with the "Little League World Series" when I've been watching world class athletes Speed Walk all day?— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 11, 2012
Headin' to Williamsport, Pa Little League World Series. Grand Marshall to kick it off should be great fun.— Wade Boggs (@ChickenMan3010) August 15, 2012
Little League, Big Ratings
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Here are some fun facts for you from a recent Nielsen Wire blog post:
- Between 2008 and 2011, the Little League World Series saw its average viewership per game on broadcast and cable networks increase from 825,000 viewers to 1.3 million viewers.
- As Nielsen Wire points out, those numbers are especially impressive considering over 65 percent of the game's are broadcast live during the day, when people are supposed to be working.
- Despite ratings going up, advertisers can still get great bang for the buck. According to Nielsen, "2011, the estimated average cost of a 30-second spot was $8,504 down from $9,117 during the 2010 series."
Even Little League is a business. Given the viewership numbers, one of the coolest August traditions isn't going away anytime soon.
Colby Rasmus Recalls Playing in the Tournament
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Way back in 1999, current Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus participated in the Little League World Series with his team from Phenix City, Alabama. That team was coached by his father, as Rasmus recalled with a great quote (via John Lott of the National Post):
“Tough competition, good players,” Rasmus recalled Monday. “The field, the stadium, it was awesome. A ton of people in the stands.”
But he and his teammates did not feel any extra pressure, he said.
“I don’t think pressure really bothered us. We were more scared of my dad than anything,” Rasmus said with a trace of a smile, in reference to Tony’s well-documented volatility.
How many kids do you think that is true of? How many over-bearing fathers do you think factored into the advancement of these teams?
I don't mean to take away the fun from a great event. In general, the coaches always seem great with the kids. But everyone who played Little League recalls running into a few crazy parents along the way.
Luckily enough for me, they were never my coach. I guess Rasmus can't say the same.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are gold like the Team USA women.