By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For Fox Deportes
Last Wednesday, everything seemed to stop as people dropped what they were doing around the country to tune into Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez’s shot at history.
I did. I kept the channel on MLB Network after the sixth inning, and to the network’s credit, they flipped to the Mariners-Tampa Bay game for good as King Felix got closer to not only a no-hitter but a perfect game.
On a beautiful sunny day at Safeco Field in Seattle, we saw Hernandez pitch perfection, then kick up his leg and raise his arms in a celebration that has gone so viral, even a soccer player copied it in tribute to Hernandez after scoring a goal.
Grown men, acting like kids. The essence of sports.
Since that moment, the nation has followed the annual Little League World Series, where actual kids can act like kids. I’d seen bits and pieces of games until Monday, when I put Mexico vs. Chinese Taipei on the TV and watched while I worked.
The game was one thing. Twelve- and 13-year-olds hitting home runs, throwing out runners from the outfield, playing great defense, and yet making one or two key mistakes that led to runs. It was amazing to see how good these kids are at baseball at such a young age, yet they are kids, and anything can happen in such a setting as Williamsport, Pa.
One team had to win, but let’s forget who won or lost. The best scenes from that Mexico-Chinese Taipei game weren’t necessarily the plays on the field. They were the images from the crowd, and the whole world-community feel that was present among the fans.
Viewers saw both teams doing a dance routine with the tournament mascot. Kids in uniform shaking their hips. There were fans from across the globe in Asia making plenty of noise, rhythmic in their cheers. There were the Mexican fans, dressed like, well, Mexican soccer fans. And there were the players from Uganda, standing amongst Mexicans from Nuevo Laredo – people they had never met in their lives – and being serenaded with chants of “Uganda! Uganda!”
An African pre-teen, huge sombrero on his head, beamed as he got his face painted by a complete stranger. Just being embraced by another culture. In appreciation of the love from the Mexicans, the Ugandan boys returned the cheers with “Mexico! Mexico!”
As fun as it was for the first four innings, it did get a little serious. In the top of the fifth inning, the Mexican coaches approached the umpire to complain that the Chinese Taipei players were stealing signals and tipping off teammates about what pitch was coming. The Chinese Taipei coaches were visibly shocked to be informed of the allegation.
At that point we were reminded that this is indeed very serious to these teams, especially with the game being an elimination game. There were challenged calls, umpire conferences and therefore, delays. An out call on a pickoff play was reversed.
But there was the underlying feeling that win or lose, these kids had made new friends from places they could barely imagine, an experience that could only make them better citizens in life.
And that, amigos, is really why we watch the Little League World Series year after year after year. It takes us back to a time when we were kids, brings the world to us, and in some way restores our faith in humanity.