8 adorable ways the Little League World Series proves sportsmanship is alive

Whether you're talking about the Deflategate controversy or just your run-of-the-mill bench-clearing brawl, sports can be a little, well, unsportsmanlike from time to time.

What's a fan to do to keep from becoming cynical? For me, the answer is simple: the Little League World Series.


You'll be smiling along from your living room couch. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images.

Each summer, 16 of the top Little League teams from all over the world come together in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to compete for the championship. The quality of play is pretty amazing, but the best part about it, in my opinion, is how the players carry themselves.

The 10-day tournament ended on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015, with Tokyo, Japan, beating Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, to take the title. Here are eight moments from the contest that remind us that sportsmanship is still alive.

1. Little Leaguers will show you when they're impressed — even if it's by their competitors.

It's hard to think of a more demoralizing situation than this: Webb City, Missouri, was already trailing Pennsylvania 14-0 when the Keystone State's Cole Wagner blasted a grand slam out of the park.

Instead of hanging his head in frustration, Missouri pitcher Mekhi Garrard's face was a picture of disbelief, awe, and admiration as he watched the ball sail over the fence.

Mekhi Garrard surrendered a homer and then looked really impressed by just how far it went. That's the spirit! Image via ESPN.

2. They apologize for their mistakes.

After Chinese Taipei pitcher Wei Hung Chou threw a pitch that struck Uganda's Joshua Olara, the pitcher immediately went over to first base. He took off his hat and bowed to Olara, who then returned this act of respect.

Classy: Uganda's Joshua Olara forgives the pitcher after being hit by a pitch. Image via ESPN.

When the next batter hit the ball, Olara slid hard into second, taking out a much smaller second baseman from Chinese Taipei. The Ugandan player was called out, but made sure to help his opponent up with a hug before returning to the dugout

A hard slide, but no hard feelings. Image via Little League Baseball and Softball.

3. Family comes first.

In a qualifying game, South Burlington, Vermont, was trailing Cranston, Rhode Island, 6-0 with pitcher Vermont's Seamus McGrath having a rough time on the mound. Sean McGrath, the team's manager (and the pitcher's father), made the call to bring in a new pitcher, a decision no dad would envy.

After explaining the switch to his team, he made sure to give his son a hug and tell him, “'I'm so proud of you. I love you kid," before heading back to the dugout.

Sean McGrath hugs his son Seamus. We're tearing up over here. Image via ESPN.

4. They'll acknowledge a great play, even if it gives their opponents the lead.

In extra innings of an international semifinal game, Japan gave up two home runs to Venezuela to fall behind 4-2.

As Yeiner Fernandez, the Venezuelan player who hit the second homer, rounded the bases, he received a high five from the Japanese third baseman.

The third baseman gave Fernandez a high-five after his home run. Image via Little League Baseball and Softball.

5. Fans don't only cheer for the home team.

This year, Venezuela won the Latin American championship to make it to Williamsport. Broadcasters said no family members could afford to make the trip, but the team was not without a cheering section. Local fans came together to root for the squad from Venezuela.

A fan shows Venezuelan pride. ¡Chévere! Image via Little League Baseball and Softball

6. They support their teammates after tough calls.

In the sixth inning of the international final game, a Mexican outfielder nearly made a great catch in left field. Unfortunately, he dropped the ball when trying to throw it in, and the batter was called safe.

He was upset about the play, but his teammates immediately surrounded him to offer support and encouragement.

Team Mexico hugging it out. Image via Little League Baseball and Softball

7. Volunteers make the tournament possible.

The Little League World Series has become a huge event, with players and fans from all over the world coming to the competition. Many people volunteer to make the experience possible, from umpires and grounds crew, to concession stand workers and team hosts.

The folks in blue do it just for the love of the game. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

8. They keep things in perspective.

Japan beat Pennsylvania in the finals to become the 2015 Little League World Series champions. As hugs were exchanged in the handshake line, many of the Pennsylvania boys were smiling despite their loss (not the ones here, but trust me, some of them were!).

Good game, good game, good game. Now the pizza party? Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Because, at the end of the day, baseball is just a game, but the memories will last a lifetime.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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