Four international teams squared off Thursday night as parents cheered from the stands and the community sat on the grassy hill or in the chairs they brought. However, these games were not in South Williamsport.
“Every year, we try to have what is called a crossover game between an international team and a national team that has been eliminated.” said Scott Metzger, a Little League guy. “It allows them to play more baseball with a local feel and the community comes out.”
Japan played Australia in the Montoursville Little League, and Puerto Rico played Europe and Africa in the Hepburn Lycoming Little League.
“This year, the American teams returned home (after elimination)”, Metzger said. “They had to leave because of school.”
When a team tells a guy that the players want to play more baseball, the guy first gets permission from Little League and, once granted, reaches out to the community to make it happen.
“We are all excited to be here today and play in the United States,” said Rebecca Crew, mother of Australian player Chase Crew. “It’s another chance to hit the ball.”
After the game in Montoursville, players and coaches ate on the field.
“We knew it was dinner time,” Metzger said. “We wanted to give them a nice picnic.”
The Japanese and Australian players traveled to Montoursville together on a bus and then sat together during the picnic.
“It’s supposed to be a fun game”, Metzger said. “It’s a sandlot game where you can make some friends. It is not a serious competition. It’s good old-fashioned baseball.”
He said that one of the taller players had one of the shorter players on his shoulders.
“They were grinning from ear to ear,” Metzger said. “That’s all it is.”
That friendship extends beyond the players.
“We’re having a great time,” Said the crew. “Everyone is very nice.”
Crossplay is also good for the community, Metzger said.
“Some kids who might not get a chance to meet someone (at the Little League World Series) might meet them here,” he said. “It’s an additional opportunity for people to support Little League.”
However, the games are never a guarantee, they are only if the teams request it.
“The community really accepts it,” Metzger said. “They don’t expect it. It is an opportunity, not a right.”
Thursday night’s game was put together at the last minute after Japan and Australia said they wanted to play more baseball. As soon as the players told their uncles, the uncles went to work on the details. Little League finds the umpires to announce the game and organizes the bus, he said.
“It’s a great opportunity for the local league to help Little League,” Metzger said. “If we can add to that in any way, it’s a plus for the community.”
The local league is an ambassador for Little League, which helps the program overall, he said.
“Having this in our backyard is a gift,” Metzger said.
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