8 adorable ways the Little League World Series proves sportsmanship is alive
We can learn a lot from Little League.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
Because, at the end of the day, baseball is just a game, but the memories will last a lifetime.