Sunday, September 4, 2011

From LLWS to NPB

I just arrived in Tokyo to spend the next two weeks sightseeing and taking part in the JapanBall tour. This is my fourth year with JapanBall, a group that takes people on a tour of Japan through five professional baseball games in seven days. It's an imaginative – if not condensed – way to soak in Japan's culture, cuisine, and transportation system while taking in some baseball.

Speaking of baseball, I'm probably the only person from the US who was disappointed that the Japanese Little League team from Hamamatsu City lost the Little League World Series championship game to the boys from Huntington Beach, California. To me the matchup of a team from Japan against a team from the US was the 12- and 13-year-old equivalent to Nadeshiko Japan's victory over the US in the Women's World Cup in July. (But in Little League, the tournament is structured so that a team from the US is always guaranteed a spot in the championship game.)

Alas, it was not to be, as the US clipped Japan 2-1, after an error kept California's bottom of the 6th alive and allowed the winning run to score on a clutch hit by a youngster named Nick Pratto.

While I watched the drama unfold on TV, my friend Dean was on the scene and took some fantastic, up-close-and-personal photos.

While there were tears in the visitors' dugout . . .

. . . the victors posed with the championship banner.

The event was worthy of a blurb in Sports Illustrated, which praised the final game while slamming the television coverage (". . .  the quality of the product overwhelmed its questionable presentation.").

Regardless of your opinion of the televised production, the Little League World Series is great fun, even when your team doesn't win it all. Chin up, Hamamatsu City. Maybe a few years down the line, I'll see one or more of you playing in an NPB game in Japan.

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