Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Yes, yes, you've mentioned your son's batting average SEVERAL times..."

2008 Little League World Series Championship Game Running Diary: it's back by popular demand. This year's final sees 5-0 West Waipahu, Hawaii facing off against 5-0 Matamoros, Mexico, which means my tasteless jokes about Japanese culture will have to be replaced by...tasteless jokes about the Latin Kings. Off we go...

3:45: Looks as though Mexico's starting pitcher is Sergio Rodriguez, which is to say: not the guy that pitched the perfect game earlier in the tournament (more on that later).

3:46: and it's a leadoff hit for Hawaii. That was fast.

3:47:
I'm joined today by Louis--my brother's freshly shorn bichon frisse...who looks rather more rat-like at the moment than I'm entirely comfortable with--and, intermittently, by dad and Carrie.

3:48:
Brent Musberger makes his first of presumably dozens of ridiculous remarks when he complains that, despite it being perfectly sunny in South Williamsport, PA, it's "a bit too humid for his liking." Oh, for fuck's sake, Brent! People, like, fell down dead from the air pollution in Beijing (didn't they?)

3:50:
a seeing-eye single turns into an RBI as Emmanuel Rodriguez runs past the ball in left without picking it up (something the announcers insist on referring to as a "bobble"--whatever). 1-0 Hawaii. And the "U-S-A!" chants have already begun. Rats. I had 4:10 in the office pool...

3:53:
a wild pitch followed by a walk and it's now 1st and 3rd with 1 out. This has an old-school "Chinese Taipei wins 12-0" feel to it. Could be a long afternoon.

3:54:
one of the Hawaiian parents brandishes a "with God, all things are possible" sign. Hmmm...I typically prefer my creepy Christian banners to be a bit pithier ("John 3:16" and the like), but far be it for me to tell them how to prostelytize...

3:56:
another walk and the bases are loaded, which leads to the first mound visit of the day, courtesy of Mexican Manager Gustavo Gomez.

Since there's a bit of a lull, this seems as good a time as any to point out the following: Mexico's uniforms are flat-out hideous. Is there anything less intimidating than red and green? They look like the Keebler elves...except latino (feel free to insert your own outsourcing joke here.) Hawaii, meanwhile, is sporting a very fetching Carolina blue.

3:58:
...and a strikeout ends the threat. Kind of a scary first inning for Mexico.

4:00:
in what, evidently, now passes as research for me these days, I quickly perused last year's post and noticed that there was nary a mention of the Canadian contingent. In an effort to correct this oversight, I watched two of Canada's three round robin games in their entirety. Bullet points of the more interesting/lamentable moments to follow:

-Canada's 9-3 loss to Japan was compounded by a truly embarrassing graphic highlighting listing "famous Canadians" (among them: Jim Carrey, Wayne Gretzky, and Mike Myers--what, no Tommy Douglas? He's Jack Bauer's grandfather!!) Sigh...must everything involving our country and team sports make us seem like America's pathetic loser friend? ("We're cool, we swear!")

-Against Saudi Arabia, Team Canada pulled off the rare feet of hitting doubles on back to back pitches without scoring a run. A few inning later, with the bases loaded and two outs, the Canadian runner on third tore back to the bag on a ground ball, only to be tagged out. Excellent work, boys! If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times: hiring Lonnie Smith as the third base coach was a grievous error.

-A funny moment involving a spectator that was dozing in the outfield getting smacked right in the face by a Saudi home run. This was followed in the next half inning by an extraordinarily awkward interview with said spectactor (a thirteen year old boy) and his sister, wherein the boy had a noticeable red welt on his face, was clearly pissed off he'd been hit, and was in no mood for the reporter's playful banter.

-Let the record show the starting lineup for Saudi Arabia contained the following surnames: Beyers, Branton, Bradford, Knight, Durley, and Lavenue. Why don't we just end this charade and rename them "My Daddy's a Super-Rich Doctor and He Told Me Never to Look the Crown Prince Directly in the Eye"? I'm all for the Americans having half the teams (8 of 16 at present), but do they really need a thinly-disguised 9th team? Should we look forward to welcoming Team Iraq in 2021?

-As of the win against SA (a 7-5 squeaker), our lifetime record now stands at 37-108--that's right, this win put us over the .250 winning percentage mark, including a cool (frigid, actually) 7-20 record this decade. Since 2000, we've only advanced out of pool play once, in 2005, whereupon we were thumped 11-0 by Japan in the quarterfinals. Sigh...this makes me feel exactly like I do whenever I see a guy with my name on Blind Date acting like a total asshole (this happens more than you'd think)--1/4 horrified, 1/4 sheepish, and the rest just plain sad)

4:02: in my first of many politically incorrect fits of laughter, I burst out upon discovering that Mexico's squad is comprised, roughly, of a dozen kids (more like six, actually) with the last name Rodriguez (including three in a row in the starting lineup). Sadly, there's no one here for me to make snarky comments to--Louis just stares at me blankly.

4:04: in an interesting turn, all four of Hawaii's defensive subs are in for the first inning--Little League rules stipulate that all team members play at least one inning in the field and bat once. We'll see if this backfires.

4:05:
as we cut to ABC's sideline reporter, it's time for the single most disappointing change to this year's coverage of the LLWS: Stacy Dales trowling the bleachers instead of Erin Andrews. All together now: boooooo.

4:06:
and an easy double play ball is botched by Hawaii (not sure yet if it was sub-related--let's say yes so I can look like a genius). 1st and 3rd for Mexico with 1 out.

4:08:
...but Mexico is unable to convert and it's 1-0 after one.

4:12:
Hawaii Catcher Keelen Obedoza lists his favorite food as "seasoned salmon over rice." Now that's a refined palette! But what's the appropriate wine pairing?

4:16:
Tanner Tokanaga absolutely crushes the fist pitch he sees to straightaway center for a two-run jack. 3-0 Hawaii.

4:18:
Pikai Winchester (awesome name--does he solve mysteries in his spare time?) is hitting a Dalton Carricker-esque .714 for the week...but now a little less, as he fans on three pitches to end the inning.

4:20:
...and we're treated to yet another ad about how analog TVs wont work after February 17, 2009. Oh, Jesus God, enough alrwady! It's bad enough that they run a crawl every single night on Jeopardy! Is there a TV owner in the country that isn't aware of this?

4:24:
Quick MLB update: the Tigers are down 7-3 to the Royals. God, what a wasted season. I'm actually too depressed to even talk about this.

4:25:
and, while I'm sitting around feeling sorry for myself, Mexico smacks a home run. 3-1.

4:26:
I was too busy downing vodka and sodas at Jake's wedding on Saturday to notice this, but it seems Hawaii came back from 4 down in the sixth to beat Louisiana in the yesterday's U.S. Final. Apparently, quite a few left the ballpark before the game had ended. Uh...why, exactly? What else is there to do in South Williamsport? Antiquing? Coal mining?

4:28:
the ABC/ESPN crawl indicates that Kurt Warner is going to be named Arizona's starting QB tomorrow over Matt Leinart. Ugh. Given that SI hinted that if the two were even remotely close in training camp, Leinart would get the nod, you have to wonder just how poorly he performed. In retrospect, he's probably rethinking having a threesome with Ken Wisenhunt's wife and daughter and then posting photos on thedirty.com.

4:35:
lots of buzz, evidently, from last night's game, as, Louisiana, up 5-1, elected not to bring out ace pitcher Trey Quinn (who'd scattered four hits and struck out seven in five innings of work) in for the start of the 6th inning, even though he still had three pitches left (Explain 85 pitch thing) and could've at least handled the first (and, possibly but unlikely, the second) batter (you can exceed 85 pitches to complete an at-bat). Given that Hawaai rallied, scoring 6 in the final frame, the decision seems particularly regrettable.

That rally, by the way, went as follows: single, double, single, RBI groundout, single, strikeout, walk, infield single, double. In a particularly '86 Red Soxian turn, Louisiana threw upwards of a dozen pitches that could've ended the game with two outs (and the infield single was one of those agonizing "the first baseman knocks the ball down but then can't find it because it's directly beneath him" plays). Not surprisingly, they beefed the 3rd place game, losing 4-3 to Japan.

4:37:
Having sent a fair bit of time on the official Little League site for the past two years, I'm humbly offering a couple of suggestions: (1) include a tournament leaders page, already! I know, I know, it's all about participation and teamwork...and lots of other vaguely Cub Scoutian values, but, come on, I need to see who's leading the tournament in slugging percentage; (2) how about an All-Tournament team? You could even let the fans vote!

4:39:
A high chopper for an infield single, a throwing error on a daring two-out bunt, and a wild pitch later and it's 4-1 Hawaii. Mexico is looking super shaky right now.

4:40:
we're treated to our second untranslated mound visit of the afternoon. I maintain this is a huge missed opportunity for ABC. Why not bring in a Spanish correspondent? The coach could be threatening to murder these kids for all we know...

4:44:
after still another walk--so much for that pep talk/veiled threat, eh?--Mexico changes pitchers. The relievers is Jesus Sauceda, he of the perfect game fame. I just assumed--incorrectly, it seems--that he pitched the International Final. Obviously not. Really odd line for S. Rodriguez: 2.2 innings pitched, 17 batters faced, 68 pitches thrown (39 strikes), 5 hits, 4 earned runs, 4 walks, and seven strikeouts.

4:45:
Sauceda's perfect game (the fourth in the tournament's 62 year history), it should be noted, came about under unusual circumstances. Sauceda actually struck out all twelve batters he faced (yes, you read that right, the other team never put the ball into play), at which point, since Mexico was up 12-0, the ten-run mercy rule came into effect and--somewhat anti-climactically--the game was over. Additionally, it came against perennial Little League powerhouse Italy, so it probably doesn't even count. Ah, well.

4:48:
with the based loaded and two outs, the Hawaiian batter grounds a ball to second that the 2B foolishly doesn't charge in on, and Christian Donahue--the dutiful coach's son--beats the throw...except he's called out. Ouch. Bad call, I think. Inning over.

4:52:
...but instead of showing the replay after the break (suspicious!), ABC leads out with an inexplicable musical number involving the Jonas Brothers and a local meteorologist. Good Lord! I'd like the last 60 seconds of my life back, please.

4:53:
the camera cuts to the Sad Sack Canadian team in attendance, looking wayyyyy too happy for a squad that only one 1 game (and barely at that) here.

4:55:
a single followed by a walk and Mexico looks to be in business in the bottom of the third. But Caleb Duhay just fanned one of the Rodriguezs. 1 out. He's looked good so far...and only thrown 39 pitches. Very efficient.

4:57:
Coach Gomez pulls Emmanuel Rodriguez aside and hisses in his ear "goddamn you. Get a hit here or we're not taking you back on the bus"...or something. Again, Spanish. Rodriguez promptly mashes a fly ball that's caught on the warning track. No one tags. Hmmm...bad baserunning...but they do advance seconds later on a wild pitch.

5:00:
Eduardo Rodriguez (you thought I was kidding, didn't you?) fists one into short right, cashing in two. It's now 4-3. We may have a ballgame after all. If I were Jason Sobel, I would make the first of five thousand references to the blog jinx, but, no, it's just a coincidence.

5:01:
After another single, Mexican pitcher Sauceda comes up with 2 on and 2 out. I have to say, he's a scary looking kid...and I'm ordinarly not terrified of 12 year olds.

5:04:
Sauceda, hitting over .500 for the week, falls behind 0-2, then takes a huge cut, and whiffs. Threat over.

5:07:
before we get to the top of the fourth we're treated to a brief bunting tutorial ("Foot Locker's Building Blocks"--from what I've seen today, a fielding seminar would probably be more appropriate) courtesy of former MLB player Orestes Destrade (aka the other sideline reporter). Destrade proceeds to instruct the Italian Little Leaguer (who, let's be honest, is just happy he got to make contact once during this tournament) in Spanish--oh, come on!! This is followed by Musberger speaking in broken Spanish. Oh, man, now they're just toying with us.

5:11:
According to Musberger, Sauceda has "the face of a bulldog," at which point Orel Hershisher chuckles. Jesus, that's mean! Even I wouldn't say that! He might as well of said "my God, he is hideous!"

5:12:
cut to a shot of tournament leader in hitting Pikai Winchester's parents holding up a sign that reads, appropriately enough, "PIKAI." Way to be team players, mom and dad.

5:13:
and just when it looks like Hawaii's going to go quietly for the first time all game, Iolana Akau absolutely crushes a homer to dead centre with two outs, then proceeds to shake his head as he rounds the bases like a total cock. Lemme guess: favorite player is...A-Rod?

5:20:
A dejected Sauceda--scanning the field to no avail for hapless Italian players--loads the bases on two walks and a hit batsmen, then walks in a run on a full count. 6-3. Oh, my. Someone get this kid a churro. According to a graphic that was just flashed on-screen, Mexico, which walked six batters as team in the previous five games, has walked seven today. Sauceda is quickly put of his misery. Commercial break.

5:24:
with the two hour mark now in sight, we're barely halfway through the game. I never thought I'd say this, but this makes Olympic softball look brisk in comparison. I'm just saying, if they plugged this game into the Blue Jays Game in Hour highlight generator, it would still take 90 minutes. (Thank you, here all week, etc.)

5:26:
the new Mexican pitcher--the improbably named Klaus Muller...ehm, does anyone want to check his birth certificate--elects not to cover first base on a blooper and another run crosses the plate. It's now 7-3 Hawaii...and the bases are still loaded.

5:27:
Thankfully, Muller fans Donahue to end the inning.

5:29:
I just saw an add for a Little League game on the Wii. Sweet! Dammit, Taylor, why didn't you tell me about this?

5:35:
Mexico goes down 1-2-3 to end the fourth and are starting to look seriously bummed out. Frankly, I am too, as I was expecting a tight game.

5:38:
Hersisher starts talking about how great the weather has been this week and the Jonas Brothers. I think they've officially entered vamping mode. Tanner Tokunaga then bashes a ball deep that to centre that Sergio Rodriguez looks poised to catch, only to bounce harmlessly off the wall (Rodriguez, not the ball) as the ball sails over the fence for yet another home run. 8-3.

5:40:
Looks like we'll never get to the bottom of Klaus Muller's name (rejected fun fact: "his great-grandfather was a Nazi who fled to Mexico in 1945"), as he's promptly yanked by his manager after surrendering three runs in a third of an inning.

There's a great bit in Infinite Jest wherein one of the kids from the tennis academy (Jim Troeltsch, an aspiring television announcer) runs down the scores from Enfield's triumph over Port Washington, a rival academy in New York State...except there are something like 108 matches to report on:

(p. 309-10): The sports portion of WETA's broadcast is mostly just reporting the outcomes and scores of whatever competitive events the ETA squads have been in since the last broadcast. Troeltsch, who approaches his twice-a-week duties with all possible verve, will say ge feels like the hardest thing about his intercom-broadcasts is keeping things from getting repetitive as he goes through long lists of who beat whom and by how much. His quest for synonyms for beat and got beat is never-ending and serious and a continual source of irritation to his friends...[skipping ahead] by the time it's down to Boys A-14's, Troeltsch's delivery gets terser even as his attempts at verbiform variety tend to have gotten more lurid, e.g.: 'LaMont Chu disembowelled Charles Pospisilova 6-3, 6-2; Jeff Penn was on Nate Millis-Johnson like a duck on a Junebug 6-6, 6-7. 6-0; Peter Beak spread Ville Dillard on a cracker, while 14's A-4 Idris Arslanian ground his heel into the neck of David Wiere 6-1, 6-4." [My particular favorite comes later on: "A-2 Diane Prins hopped up and down on the thorax of Port's Marilyn Ng-A-Thiep 7-6, 6-1."]
Anyway...I'm kinda starting to feel like that.

5:48
: Let's try one: "Caleb Duhay makes Mexican reliever Eduardo Rodriguez sorry his parents were ever even in the same room together, as he pokes one through the right side of the infield." 10-3. (Yessss! Nailed it!)

5:50
: Another walk--the ninth issued by Mexico this afternoon, and that doesn't even include the three hit batsmen--and the bases are, once again, loaded.

5:51
: a passed ball leads to another run. Astoundingly, Musberger utters the following words: "suddenly [really?] it's 11-3 and Hawaii is threatening [again: really??] to blow this game wide open." Mexico catcher Ferdando Villegas--who has aged approximately six years in the past two-plus hours--has that glazed over look in his eyes where you can totally tell he's calculating what time they need to be at the airport.

5:53:
Rodriguez, officially my new hero, miraculously records back-to-back Ks to, mercifully, end the inning. Hawaii, who has scored in every inning thus far, is six outs away from the championship, which would make four in a row for the U.S.

6:00:
Iolana Akau--he of the arrogant head shake--makes an admittedly spectacular diving grab in right field to end the fifth...and then proceeds to do the head shake all over again. Musberger, clearly enraptured, completely ignores this second bout of poor sportsmanship and rhapsodizes about his "Little League smile." Awesome. The Rodriguez-Rodriguez-Rodriguez heart of the order, a veritable Murderer's Row throughout the tournament, is now 1-9 today.

6:04:
Musberger is shamelessly rooting for Tanner Tokunaga to smack his third home run today, which would tie a Championship game record. Dude, they're already up eight runs. Relax. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for Mexico) he strikes out.

6:06
: Winchester lashes a single up the middle, officially locking up the batting title (.647 for the week).

6:09:
The--I'm sorry--undeniably beefy Hawaiian 1B Khade Paris (5'4", 164 pounds) gets an RBI on a two-out throwing error (Mexico's third of the game). It's 12-3. But SP Duhay quickly grounds out to short. Three outs to go.

6:11:
wow, so they're still running Geico Caveman ads even after the unmitigated disaster of Cavemen? I would've thought that everyone involved died of shame...

6:14: After a walk, Duhay manages to get the first out in the sixth, but now has to leave the game because he's reached his pitch limit, having now thrown 89. Terrific! What a great rule! Not only does it deprive Duhay of getting the much-deserved complete game (he's been great today), but it extends the game past the 150 minute mark with a needless pitching change!!

6:17
: Duhay moves to CF, with, Donahue, the coach's kid now poised to claim the glory. I'm officially rooting for Duhay to sprint in from centre after the last out, push the reliever aside, and hug his catcher.

6:19:
a chopper up the middle is fielded cleanly by Tokunaga at short and Hawaii is one out away.

6:20:
another grounder to short and that's it. Hawaii wins. Musberger brays "Hawaii wins the gold medal." Huh? Look, just shut up, Brent.

6:23:
We come back to Musberger and Hershisher singing Akau's praises (totally disregarding his big timing antics, of course), as I bash my clipboard against my face. Well, then. That kinda sucked. The good news is there haven't been consecutive blowouts in title games since 1995-96, when American squads had to be just about carried off over somebody's shoulder 17-3 and 13-3 by Taiwan...so that bodes well for next year. Until then...

4 comments:

Jesse said...

Why did you have a clipboard?

And how am I not "popular demand"?

Kyle Wasko said...

J.R.,

I totally sold you out...for a strikethrough gag. I do apologize.

If I'm ever doing a running diary laptopless (i.e. anytime I'm in London), I write it out on in longhand on my trusty Bennett Jones clipboard (from frosh week) and then type it up later.

Did you catch any of the game?

Jesse said...

That's so disturbing... you wrote that whole thing out longhand? And then transcribed it? Get a fucking dictaphone, Sideshow Bob.

At least it's a Bennett Jones clipboard.

Nope! I didn't even know it was on. I suppose I should've presumed it was, since I mentioned the early rounds to you, but I'm not that bright.

maritimexpat said...

You'll have to explain to me what was so bad about the head shake. I guess you have to know baseball... Is it like a "nuh-uh, nice try dinks" kind of thing or is it like "nah, I could've nay should've done that better"?

For completeness, I'm also willing to accept the explanation of "no, no, no don't stop a-rockin'!". In fact, I think I prefer it.