Sunday ended an anxious and troublesome five-day stretch for millions across the East. Two dramatic events – first a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake followed by a hurricane, the likes of which had many weather experts scratching their heads because of its size.
A glimmer of sun that managed to poke through the gray skies Sunday afternoon gave hope. It was like a boxer who had been knocked off his feet climbing back up to go another round. Americans will shake off the effects of Irene's attempted knockout punch. Thankfully the number of lives lost low was low, especially in terms of Hurricane Katrina's deadly wrath six years ago.
Another positive event in an otherwise dark weekend dominated by the storm coverage was the Little League World Series in Williamsport. In fact, the field was actually bathed in sunshine by late Sunday afternoon, just in time for the final innings which saw California knock off Japan for the title. The ray of sunshine was an appropriate ending to the tournament which saw these youngsters brighten our lives for the last two weeks.
This year's tournament was one of the best I can remember, not only because an American team won but because of how these young amateurs conducted themselves. The camaradery and sportsmanship is something we rarely see as many of the gifted athletes mature into the next levels of their careers – high school, for some college, and for a very few, professional.
One fine tradition at the LLWS is seeing the teams line up at the end of a game to slap hands and wish each other well. This show of sportsmanship is something we can all learn from, both inside and outside of sports.
In one of the games I saw last week, a pitcher who accidentally hit a batter came over to first base to make sure the hit batsman was okay and to acknowledge that the errant pitch was unintentional. In the professional ranks of course, this kind of "chin music" is considered "part of the game."
There were a number of close plays at home where opposing players collided but not one resulted in any hostility or retaliation. Likewise there were some borderline calls on close plays at the bases and on some balls and strike calls from the umpires, but again, we saw no show of anger or disrespect from the players.
My favorite moment of the weekend was the pre-game ceremony Saturday to honor Christina Taylor-Green, the 9-year-old Little Leaguer from Tucson, who was one of the youngest victims in the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords last January. Green was the granddaughter of former major league manager and pitcher Dallas Green.
Also honored was New York firefighter Michael Cammarata, a former Little Leaguer who died on 9/11/01 at the World Trade Center. Ten years earlier, Cammarata wore No. 11 while playing right field at the Little League World Series for a team from Staten Island, N.Y. That number is now retired and is part of the right field wall at Lamade Stadium.
Next to the retired No. 11 plaque in right field, Little League unveiled another plaque with the initials of Cammarata and Green over the date "9-11-01." The date is significant since Christina was born on that date, the same day that Cammarata died in the terrorist attack. Players on both teams wore a similar patch on their uniforms for Sunday's championship game.
While the little league competitors played the game the way it should be on and off the field over the past two weeks, the Williamsport LLWS officials also deserve credit, for keeping the game in the right perspective.
By Jim Zbick