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Let's Get World Serious
Rick Reilly
September 06, 1999
Went to Williamsport, Pa., last week and saw the Phenix City (Ala.) team win the U.S. Little League championship.
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September 06, 1999

Let's Get World Serious

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Nope, I wouldn't trade teams with Rasmus, and, to be honest, I wouldn't want my son to play for him. For 10 weeks Rasmus had the Phenix City team practicing four hours a day, every day but one, sometimes past dark. The families of his players had to promise to take no summer vacations during that time. He even quit his job-he was supposed to teach llth-grade chemistry starting Aug. 16—so he could devote more time to coaching this team. Quit to focus on Little League. God forbid the guy ever coaches Pony League.

I won't let my pitchers throw curves yet, but every pitcher I saw in Williamsport did. In our league all 16 kids on my team are in the batting order and each plays at least two innings in the field every game. Not in Williamsport. A kid only has to get one at bat or be on the field for three outs in each game. The Japanese team, which ended up beating Phenix City 5-0 for the world championship, had one boy who batted only once all week.

After the loss Rasmus said that nearly every kid on his team was crying. The Nuts get over losses immediately, and sometimes they are not even aware they've lost. "What's the score, Coach?" my second baseman, Eric, would ask.

"Seventeen to four," I'd say.

"Who's ahead?"

But mostly, I wouldn't switch places with Rasmus because every year I get a kid or two who has never played baseball. This year it was a stone-quiet kid named William, who wore wire rims and was no higher than a mailbox. He showed up with a brand-new, board-stiff, ottoman-sized glove, and every practice we worked on making the glove a little softer and William a little better. Eventually, he not only learned to hit but also to run to first afterward, instead of third. And in the last game of the year, he stuck that frying pan out in front of him as if he were trying to stop a train and caught his first fly ball.

In nine years of coaching, that was my favorite moment. You would have thought we had just won the Little League World Series. First we hoisted William up like Lindbergh and then let him drop and made a giant dog pile on top of him.

We lost that game to end our season, probably my last, but near as I can remember, there was only one set of moist eyes.


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