The Little League World Series reminds us how great baseball is

It was the bottom of the sixth and Southeast, the team from Goodlettsville, Tennessee, had the the Little League U.S. Championship game in the bag.

What happened next made history.

Team West was down ten runs with only one at bat left in regular play. They drove in four runs before the second out, which brought up Bradley Smith.  He hit a double, followed by back-to-back homers by Kempton Brandis and Hance Smith which tied the game at fifteen and sent it into extra innings.

Southeast wasted no time bringing in nine extra runs to cement their lead and ultimately win the U.S. title, giving them the right to face Japan in the World Series Championship game.

When the dust settled, both teams has scored a combined total of forty runs, both had more runs than hits, and needless to say, the pitching lineups were exhausted.

Joey Hale, the Southeast manager, summed it up best: “We just went through a roller coaster.”

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A handful of events are exclusive to Pennsylvania: Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, and, of course, the Little League World Series in South Williamsport.

South Williamsport, a borough of six thousand, swells to over five times its normal size as it hosts teams from all over the world. The Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums, side-by-side in the middle of town, are the game's epicenter for a week and a half in the summer.  This is where thousands of kids dream to be: cracking the ball out of the park, running down the home stretch with teammates and families cheering on.

As incredibly enjoyable as these games are to watch, it isn’t always what's broadcast on television that makes this tournament great.

It's the Little League’s devotion to helping children develop good characteristics—citizenship, discipline, healthy living, and teamwork—that makes this tournament great.  They emphasize this goal on their website: “the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.”  But there's nothing like seeing it in person.  None of these kids have a hundred million dollar contract or a shoe named after them or even an agent; but there's still an unmistakable innocence to the game.  That's something we would all like to see more of in our world.

If you ever find yourself in Pennsylvania near the end of August, be sure to stop by South Williamsport and catch a game or two.   You'll cheer for the games, but you'll leave inspired by the character of the coaches, families, and players.

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