The Little League World Series: Where Pure Emotion Always Shines Through

The Little League World Series: Where Pure Emotion Always Shines Through

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What makes your average 12-to-13-year-old smile and giggle like this?

Middle school crush texts you back? Parents finally let you get a puppy? Won the pocket-lotto and found a $20 bill in your jeans?

What if I told you he just gave up one of the longest home runs in Little League World Series history in front of 32,000-plus fans and a national TV audience?

At 5-foot-1 and 85 pounds – presumably soaking wet – Mehki Garrard stood on sports’ loneliest island Friday and watched Cole Wagner deposit his 22nd pitch deep into the South Williamsport night.

Wagner turned around the 75 mph offering – in terms of reaction time, that’s the equivalent of a 98 mph fastball on major league dimensions – during the Mid-Atlantic's 18-0 drubbing of Garrard’s Midwest squad, smacking the smile right onto the opposing pitcher’s face.

This is Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The base paths may be smaller, but the emotions loom larger than life. Halfway to getting knocked out of the Little League World Series, likely the early highlight of these players' young lives, Garrard watched in awe as Wagner launched a Roy Hobbs-esque moon shot that looked destined for a fantastic collision with stadium lights. He entered the at-bat a triple shy of the cycle, including another homer earlier that inning.

Leading up to the pitch, announcer Karl Ravech rattled off Wagner’s night. “Single, double, home run, two RBIs,” he began – Wagner, by the way, rounded the bases on his double after an error in right-center – before the color commentator chimed in, “I think he hits it too hard to hit a triple.”

“[He could] pull one down the line,” Ravech thought out loud during Garrard’s delivery. Upon contact – to dead center field nonetheless, I’d like to think Wagner did it to spite Ravech in the booth suggesting to poke one down the line for the cycle – both announcers yelled in unison; half in disbelief, half in pure excitement, half because, well, it’s their job. Yes, that’s too many halves; you haven’t heard baseball is 90 percent mental, but the other half is physical? We’ve got some leeway here.

Somewhere off in the distance, Kevin Costner whispered a faint “anything travels that far oughta have a damn stewardess on it, don’t you think?”

Catcher Eli Goddard, the man with the front row seat – in the most literal sense of the term – couldn’t hold in his admiration. He didn’t tip off Wagner to the pitch being thrown like Costner’s “Crash” Davis, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

With grace and composure beyond his years, he slowly strode down the third base line, all the while being passed by the 15th, 16th and 17th Pennsylvania runs of the night. Perfectly on cue with the color commentator remarking that he’d like to personally go down and congratulate Wagner, the catcher greeted the 18th and final run of the night with a firm high five like he would an old friend.

Upon further review a middle infielder, likely shortstop Treghan Parker, congratulated Wagner halfway through his well-deserved cruise around the bases. I wouldn’t be surprised if Missouri first baseman Cale McCallister used every ounce of power in his 5-foot-6, 120-pound frame to box out the first base coach to congratulate the slugger first. Not so unfortunately, the camera was focused on a spot in the distance, nearly beyond the reach of the stadium lights. If not for a camera tower planted in the middle of the landing atop Lamade Stadium’s famous hill, the ball may still be going.

As sincere a gesture as a high-five is, there is no gesture as genuine as heartfelt emotion.

There’s an invisible battle that wages in the sixty feet and six inches – forty-six feet in this case – between the batter and pitcher. It is primal in nature. Here’s a club, that guy is going to try to get that ball by you. Don’t let him.

Very few sports are made up of true one-on-one matchups. In basketball there’s help defense, in football over-the-top coverage, and in hockey defenders will put life, limb and teeth in front of a speeding puck no matter the costs. Likely a close second to getting dunked on, having a hitter turn your best fastball into a fan’s souvenir a few hundred feet away is about as bad as it gets in sports.

That embarrassment never seemed to cross Garrard’s mind. Instead he gazed into the distance, open-mouthed, laughing in pure admiration and respect for what he just witnessed. When his third baseman met him on the mound, Garrard laughingly pointed to deep center in the direction of the crater Wagner’s bomb undoubtedly left behind.

Both announcers let out matching high-pitched “woooos,” imitating the young pitcher’s reaction. It left them giddy, as it did millions of fans around the world who regardless of race, beliefs or background all share a common appreciation for baseball and its most spectacular moments – be it performed by a professional athlete or a pre-teen.

Next time you’re watching professional baseball, keep an eye out for every over-the-leg-bat-snap and pray for the unsuspecting water coolers upon which disgruntled pitchers will aggressively take out their anger. For every time that happens there are hundreds of young batters running, not sulking, back to the dugout after striking out and pitchers awe-struck to the point of disbelief after a home run they personally allowed. The Little League World Series, once again, proves a shining example of the unfiltered emotion that fuels sports and competition even in its youngest of competitors.

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5 People You Didn't Know Went to Cal Poly Pomona

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1. Jim Zorn

Jim Zorn first went to Cerritos College and transferred to CPP where he played football for 2 seasons. While he was attending CPP, he set 44 school records and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1997. Since then he has played with the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After his retirement, he moved onto coaching in the NFL where he has been for 16 seasons. He is currently a quarterback coach for the Kansas City Chiefs.


2. Forest Whittaker

Whittaker attended Cal Poly Pomona on a football scholarship (yes, we had a football team), but an injury left him unable to play. He changed his major to music where he was a part of the Cal Poly Chamber Singers. He ended up transferring to University of Southern California to finish up his degree, but got his start at CPP. He is now a famous actor who stared in Platoon, Bird, The Shield, The Color Money, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, and many more productions. He was also the 4th African American male to win Best Actor at the Academy Awards.


3. Hilda Solis

Solis was accepted into the Equal Opportunity Program at Cal Poly Pomona and graduated in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. While getting her Master of Public Administration at USC, she worked for the Carter and Reagan administration. Under the Obama administration, Solis became the first Latina to serve in the US Cabinet. Currently she serves on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.


4. Kevin Lyman

Lyman became well known by creating Vans Warped Tour, but before this he graduated Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Recreation Administration in 1984. He discovered his love of music while in college and worked with on campus bands to find places to play. He took his love to the LA music scene which led to the creation of Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and Down From the Mountain Tour.


5. Michael Steger

Steger graduated CPP with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a minor in Spanish. After graduating with honors, he went on to appear in NCIS, Criminal Minds, Covert Affairs, True Blood, and several Disney Channel productions. He is best known for his role as Navid Shirazi on 90210.

Cover Image Credit: Hahn-Khayat-Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT

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12 Reasons Hockey Players Score The Best Fans

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As said by the great one, Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.". Hockey players are an example of why you should take that shot and become a fan of the great sport.

1. They can relate to others because they are people, too

Max Domi of the Arizona Coyotes lives with Type I diabetes. Here he is pictured with a local boy from Winnipeg who also has type I diabetes. Domi has made a huge impact on young athletes around the world that live with these disorders.

2. They take selfies, too

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Captains Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals are shown here taking a selfie with a very lucky fan. This fan was honored by dropping the puck at the beginning of the game between the teams.

3. They take part in the make a wish foundation

The captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews, made this young child's dream come true as they skated together at Soldier Field in Chicago during the outdoor stadium series in 2014. Thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation Nicholas's dream came true.

4. They're giving

via">https://giphy.com/gifs/al-pacino-KZotoc08I2cO4">vi... GIPH

Pictured here is a young Montreal Canadiens fan who received a puck over the glass at a game.

5. They're good looking

via">https://giphy.com/gifs/nhl-dallas-stars-tyler-segu... GIPHY

Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars is known as one of the most attractive players in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was featured in ESPN's publication of the body issue in 2015.

6. They're friendly

via">https://giphy.com/gifs/hockey-s-x0uAkkEkNqVqg">via GIPHY

Minnesota Wild forward Charlie Coyle is pictured here greeting a young fan during pregame warmups.

7. They're active in the community

P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators is a very active member in the community. With his former team in Montreal he would visit children in the local hospital and donate money to help them in their time of need. To this day, even though he is living in Nashville, Subban continues to serve the people of Montreal.

8. They're humble

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina award in 2017 for being the best netminder in the NHL. He goes to congratulate other nominees and thanks the fans for the great season he accomplished not only by himself but also with his team.

9. They fight

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Six foot nine defensemen Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins challenges Detroit's Brendan Smith.

10. They're hilarious

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Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks is obviously furious with the penalty called against as he banters with on-ice officials and players.

11. They play through the pain

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Captain of the New York Islanders John Tavares barely flinches as he pulls out a tooth then proceeds to hand it over to the athletic trainer.

12. They have the best fans

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Carrie Underwood is a proud hockey wife. Her husband Mike Fisher just retired from the league after eighteen years in it. Many other celebrities are fans of the game that cheer them on the win the holiest of grails, the Stanley Cup.

Cover Image Credit: Youtube

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