As the post title implies, there's absolutely no need for this -- not only is the notion of televised little league somewhat despicable, especially blown up to the ridiculous level we'll see today (tune in on ABC at noon pacific and tell 'em Sleek sent ya!), but it's also probably not a great idea for me to start cracking beers so early on a Sunday and confess the sweet joy I experience at the publicized failures of young kids. (Also, for you readers keeping score, I'm pretty sure this will be my first official liveblog -- I've yet to really chronicle an NHL game, though BoC's comments can turn into that at times.)
Now, if you're new to little league baseball but you're intrigued by the idea of crying kids, I have to warn you -- today may not be the best time to start watching. By now, the truly awful teams have been mercifully elminated (and in little league, "mercy" does have a hilarious bent to it). The two teams that remain -- Chula Vista, CA, and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan for those of you using outdated globes) -- are both pretty fucking awesome, and it really could turn into anybody's game today. Chula Vista has the power -- they've hit some mammoth number of home runs, and I swear one of those kids after the tournament has to go back to finish his undergraduate studies. But Taipei's got a technically solid game -- their infield in particular has been lights-out, and I'm never going to count out a team that bows to honor the deceased spirits of the baseball field before every game.
Just to run past some technicalities -- the game is six innings, kids are 11-13, there are no runner lead-offs or head-first slides, strike zones fluctuate like crazy, and a huge number of kids score on passed balls. Substitutions can happen at any damn time a coach wants, and because it's little league, every pop fly still has some potential to be dropped for a comical home run.
So I don't know if this is going to be a dumb idea or this is going to be a VERY dumb idea, but if you're bored and want to tune in and follow along, feel free. Fair warning -- I'm probably pulling for Chinese Taipei today. It's not that I'm anti-California or anything, but it's just that when one team sees its infantile dreams get crushed on national television, well let's just say that I want that tearful mound visit to be miked in English.
12:00 pm Underway! And I just finished today's first beer! I'm like a proud parent.
12:05 pm In its LLWS history, Chinese Taipei is 7-0 against teams from California, according to my TV. Outscored 'em 69-5. But I think some of that's tainted -- Taiwan was pulling from a giant talent pool for a while. Then again, look at Chula Vista's Luke Ramirez -- that guy's a giant talent.
12:15 pm Holy crap, the players have a pledge that starts with "I trust in God"? I guess atheist lawyers' kids don't play baseball. BTW, I would like to kick this Hanna Montana kid in the throat, but it's still more amusing than most NHL sideline reporting.
12:16 pm Well, good on the Chinese kids for learning to struggle through their English introductions. When you think about it, "favorite player" has a lot of consonants to push out in a row. Game on.
12:22 pm The kid pitching for Chula Vista is a pretty funny one -- I didn't get to see their game yesterday (went to the Fedorin Cup instead), but when #25 pitched two games ago, I think he faked an injury to get out of pitching any further. Tears, exaggerated wincing when laying on his back, the whole thing; it was beautiful. When CV came back to win the game, though, he was healthy and happy as anybody. Awesome.
12:26 pm Chula Vista gets the third out, middle of the first. Zero runs, one hit for Taipei. The kid Ou for Taipei struck out and will take the mound -- he's a little guy, but has pitched well in the one game I saw earlier in the week. Incredibly, until last game, Chinese Taipei had zero passed balls and zero wild pitches, despite using a variety of pitchers. Probably the other teams averaged a dozen or more.
12:31 pm Ou's two first pitches go past the catcher -- so much for that stat. After opening with a walk, Taipei's coach comes out and gives a very stern-sounding speech to his team. In Chinese. The psychic announcer attempts to translate it as possibly "Cheer up".
12:36 pm It's sort of funny watching the cheering section that Chinese Taipei has brought with them. It's sort of a contagious non-stop chant, with a leader -- some alternative form of structured cheering that I'll likely never be a part of. But sort of cool to watch in a secretly envious way. Ou ends the inning scoreless -- zero runs, zero hits, two stranded (walks).
12:43 pm Incidentally, both these teams have lost once already in the LLWS -- each in their last game of pool play. But both teams not only were then able to take out the top seeds from the other bracket (Georgia & Curacao), but then were able to avenge their pool losses against Texas and Mexico. Mexico edged Texas earlier today in the consolation game. Chinese Taipei gets a two-out double in the top of the second, but CV escapes with a strikeout.
12:54 pm Solid news that two players had to change numbers for this LLWS finals game because some bubble gum got mixed in with the wash -- that'd be a hoot in the big leagues. Taipei gives up an early walk (I think?), but gets a popout and a double play, somewhat of an impressive rarity with fast kids and 60-ft basepaths. End of two, still scoreless.
12:58 pm Was just reminded when they showed highlights from the early rounds of LLWS baseball. It's been a few years since hockey's been on ESPN, but man, for some reason I just cannot stand the voice of Gary Thorne. In fact, I used to hate Bill Clement, too, until they got their broadcast divorce. It was then that I realized that Clement was just suffering from deflected Thorne hatred.
1:04 pm Chinese Taipei breaks the defensive gridlock -- after a two-out single, some kid blasts a deep two-run shot. Chinese Taipei 2, Chula Vista 0. In somewhat related "this game was slow so far" news, I now have enough empty beer cans handy to begin construction on a pyramid. At least that part of the liveblog's not a waste.
1:06 pm Uh-oh, my long-awaited mound visit might be coming soon (and if I'm really lucky, another faked injury). Taipei slams a follow-up solo shot. Chinese Taipei 3, Chula Vista 0. Still two outs, and now CV is switching pitchers to their star batter -- Kiko Garcia.
1:14 pm ABC persists with their hilarious comparisons between home run totals of Chula Vista vs. that of the San Diego Padres. What that has to do with anything is beyond me -- they are aware of the thousands of differences, right?
1:21 pm Chula Vista mounts a comeback -- with one out, they get a single, a double, and an intentional walk. Earlier in the LLWS, CV had a strategy to swing 3-0 on intentional walks, since pitch counts are heavily monitored. They were outsmarted by Georgia, though, whose pitcher dropped the ball while winding up for the fourth pitch. The batter was too stunned to swing and walked on what later was scored as three pitches. Big strikeout by Ou for the second out, but now it's a 3-0 count with the bases loaded.
1:26 pm A routine grounder to the second baseman gets fumbled twice, and no throw -- classic little league. CV gets on the board on a rare Taipei error -- Chinese Taipei 3, Chula Vista 1, with the bases still loaded and two outs.
1:29 pm The Chinese catcher makes an impressive stop on a pitch in the dirt, probably saving a run, and Ou ends the third inning with a critical bases-loaded strikeout. 3-1 still, halfway through regulation.
1:34 pm Overly content with their lead, Chinese Taipei goes out 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth, but did manage to squeeze in a lot of their mandatory substitutions. Chula Vista to come up to bat down by two runs.
1:39 pm Chula Vista's bench players start coming through in their sub at-bats. CV starts the bottom of the fourth with a single and a double, and the Chinese coach has seen enough. A brief but stern mound visit, and a new pitcher coming in for Taipei, still no outs.
1:46 pm New pitcher starts with a sacrifice fly out but then a single. Chinese Taipei 3, Chula Vista 2. One out, guys on first and third, and CV's star batter up -- Kiko Garcia. And then a passed ball! Chinese Taipei 3, Chula Vista 3. One out, guy on second, Garcia still up, and the Chinese coach sounds pissed. Damn I wish I spoke Chinese right now.
1:53 pm New pitcher strikes out Kiko Garcia, and then the Dustin Penner of little league comes up and gets intentionally walked again. Another passed ball puts the runners on second and third, and then a kid comes through in the clutch with a single. Chula Vista 4, Chinese Taipei 3, and now the roles are reversed. Should be a warm team meeting in the Chinese dugout.
2:00 pm This game does have back-and-forth drama to it, but that's something I could probably get from any old sport. I'm getting kind of antsy to see a crestfallen kid, to tell the truth. With one out a Chinese Taipei player gets nicked by a pitch, but with all the elbow protection there was nothing to cry about, sadly.
2:04 pm A very enthusiastic set of cheers coming from the Chinese dugout, sort of a boot-camp ask-and-answer between the coach and the kids, another time when I want to speak Chinese. And then, success! A nerdy Chinese batter gets nailed on the wrist by a fastball -- he's down in some pain, and my bloodlust is temporarily sated. Guys on 1st and 2nd with one out now.
2:09 pm Kiko Garcia is in serious danger of losing it. He's shaking off pitches, missing the strike zone, and now the bases are juiced. But then a key ground ball double play gets Chula Vista out of the jam -- and coming up to bat to add to their lead.
2:13 pm In a shocking move of making this whole thing hockey-relevant, they decide to interview Chris Drury. Fuck, I'm prophetic.
2:24 pm Chula Vista starts the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff single, and pushes the insurance run across with a clutch two-out single. Chula Vista 5, Chinese Taipei 3. Then another one somehow comes through -- Chula Vista 6, Chinese Taipei 3. And my computer is hating all these updates, for some reason. Fucking Blogger was never this slow.
2:30 pm A catch at the wall prevented further Chinese bleeding, but now they've only got three outs left and three runs to score. This leadoff batter claims his hobby is "Sleeping", so I'm optimistic.
2:35 pm Three strikeouts later (plus a hit batter), and it's all over -- Chula Vista wins it. Now just to see whether the cameras pick up any Chinese Taipei tears or coach anger. This ended up pretty lame.
2:42 pm A few quick moments of Chinese tears, as they bow to the California crowd and their hometown fans. Obnoxiously, one CV fan pulls out a pre-printed newspaper which declares Chula Vista as front-page "CHAMPS", and stunningly, Vice President Biden shows up to hand over the trophy -- I'll be dead before someone that big gives away a Stanley Cup, I reckon.
Yeah, in quick retrospect, there wasn't much need nor use for a LLWS liveblog -- all the things I was really hoping for (blood, tears, fights, coach screaming at his superstar son) didn't really happen, and in the end today's game mostly became an adult sporting event. But hey, at least I had an excuse to drink some beers and I'm now officially one afternoon closer to hockey starting again. Hurry the fuck up, training camp.