By MERLE PEIFER
and PAM CUMMINGS
The sights and sounds of the Little League World Series on Monday morning, Aug. 22:
On our fifth day, the first sight of the Little League World Series venue early this morning was awe inspiring to say the least. Missing, this morning, was the oppressive humidity constantly beating you down. The two stadiums are back to back and feature perfectly groomed fields. The hill outside of Lamade field is green and empty of fans ... for now.
During the games, the stands are filled with colorful T-shirts supporting all the teams. The upper hillside is brown from the cardboard sleds the kids use to slide down throughout the games. Later this evening, even these sleds will give way to thousands more chairs and blankets.
Currently, the lower hillside is also filled chairs and blankets, some filled and some unused, to “reserve” someone's spot for the game tonight. It is 10 hours before the late game for the Pennsylvania team representing Mid Atlantic, but their fans are showing up early. There will be a sea of blue shirts that overwhelm the other colors.
In the meantime, the consolation bracket games continue and the stands are filled with fans from all teams cheering on the good play regardless of the team.
The Billings Big Sky All Stars have the day off but they had a practice earlier today. The players were given the afternoon off to be with their families.
One of the best jobs here has to be the mascot called Dugout. He or she dances with the teams and umpires before the serious business of the games begin. The managers and coaches also may get a chance to dance along for a national TV audience -- who cares if you feel silly – it’s just part of this atmosphere. Even the Montana manager made an attempt to show that he can dance.
Dugout may be on the field during the game entertaining the crowd, or at other times he passes through the stands or concourse giving hugs and high fives to everyone young or old.
These teams are all champions of their area and are thrilled just to have the opportunity to play here. Yes, there are winners and losers in every game, smiles and tears when your team is finished, and a lifetime of memories to carry back to each hometown. They play their hearts out on the field and after the games they are back to being kids. I think it is harder to lose for the parents.
Fans buy shirts and pins and other souvenirs even if they have never heard of your hometown. They fill the stands, outfield areas, hillsides just to watch another game of baseball that follows the same rules regardless of what part of the world you live in.
There are hundreds of Northwest shirts and jerseys sold, many worn by just the locals supporting a team from far away. The Little League Souvenir shop sold out early of the Northwest jerseys and, yes, the color looks much better on TV then when you see them live, which is a light mustard in color.
The volunteers spend long days and nights cleaning, preparing fields, directing fans and I applaud their efforts and time. We need more of them in life. It's another great day and I am thankful to be here.