WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) – Nathan Eovaldi and John Schreiber used their sliders without throwing a pitch. Boston Red Sox pitchers picked up their pieces of crumpled cardboard and took to the traditional slide down the hill from the Little League World Series stadium’s outfield.
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde climbed the hill and raced head-to-head against his 14-year-old son in the cardboard challenge.
“I wasn’t sure,” Hyde said with a laugh. “But once I saw people falling, I wanted to try it. You never know when you’re going to come back.”
Oh, and Hyde won the father-son competition.
“A little more dough rolling down,” he said.
On a sunny Sunday morning, the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles acted like kids again as they mingled with Little League stars from around the world at the site of youth baseball’s heyday.
Hours later, it was time to throw the soggy cardboard in the trash. The Red Sox and Orioles could have used a raft to get around the rainy field.
The Red Sox and Orioles remained hopeful they could play the Major League Baseball Little League Classic Sunday night at the 2,366-seat Historic Bowman Field. The field was waterlogged – as were ticket clerks and stadium workers – and outdoor batting practice was cancelled. Weather warning signs flashed on the scoreboard instead of the starting lineups.
The Red Sox were ready to send right-handed Nick Pivetta (9-9, 4.28 ERA) to the mound against Orioles right-handed Dean Kremer (5-4, 3.58 ERA) in the rubber starter of the three-game series. Both teams are vying for the final AL wildcard spot.
After playing Saturday at Camden Yards, the Orioles and Red Sox were greeted Sunday morning at the airport by smiling league players and signed autographs – yes, even the 12-year-olds signed shirts and balls for the major league players. – and watched some of the early Little League World Series games.
Red Sox head coach Alex Cora called the visit to Little League Puerto Rico’s team “a great experience.” And yes, her baseball cap turned backwards, Cora also dove headfirst into the cardboard and down the hill. He was also sitting in the back of a makeshift race car with members of the Little League team from Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
Most Orioles had their Little League pictures in their locker inside the cramped clubhouse of the unaffiliated Williamsport Crosscutters.
Who was that Oriole wearing the number 8 taking off to first base in his Pop Warner football cleats after a bat hit?
Cal Ripken Jr.?
No, try Orioles outfielder Austin Hays, who test-drive the uniform as a kid playing Little League in Florida. Hays had no trouble finding the old photo – the original is still hanging on her grandmother’s fridge.
Hays said the day was the kind of experience he would love to grow up in. Few kids can say they made it to the Little League World Series. Now, they have the added bonus of meeting baseball stars. The lucky few ran into the O’s.
“I got halfway there. It fell off my piece of cardboard,” Hays said. “The boy I was running from fell off his too. So I ran back, jumped on mine and he tried to go down without his, so I think I won by disqualification.”
Not all major league players were newbies to Williamsport. Now Boston’s game planning coordinator, former Red Sox star Jason Varitek, drove Altamonte Springs out of Florida for the 1984 United States championship. Varitek’s advice for today’s small leagues is the same as the one he received. 38 years ago.
“Seize the moment, enjoy the atmosphere, switch pins,” Varitek said as he headed for Sunday’s game. “Meet other players from other countries. Leave your best out there. Enjoy being where you are.”
Of course, the $7 hot dogs at the concession stand – just a dollar at the local Little League field – and the poker chips piled up during the club’s card game showed that this was still a major league experience in town. for small size players.
The Little League Classic is MLB’s latest experiment in trying to attract new fans – and rekindle the passion of old ones – through unusual settings. The last one was a hit — Major League Baseball’s second “Field of Dreams” game last week came straight from the cornfields of Dyersville, Iowa. More than 3.1 million viewers watched Fox Sports’ broadcast of the game, the most-watched regular season baseball game on any network this year.
ESPN broadcast on Sunday and promised all the additional features that make the game a more appealing watch for kids. As with other Sunday night broadcasts, the broadcast is expected to include a player with a microphone to speak to the broadcast booth. There is also a children’s broadcast team on ESPN2.
“This is our job now. We get paid to do this,” Hays said. “But at the end of the day, we were in the kids’ shoes and started playing because it was fun. Something we liked to do. And that brought us here.”
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