By Lenn Robbins
This is what unfettered, 12-year-old joy looks like. These are the jerseys that humanity wears. This is where a ball and a bat and a glove meld into a glorious amalgam of inclusion and respect and compassion.
The Little League World Series has come at the perfect time for a world wound tight in anxiety and fear and hate.
From mass shootings, to trade wars, to tensions on the Korean Peninsula and Kashmir, to protests in Hong Kong, to leaders that lead only themselves – every morning dawns in doubt.
Except in Williamsport.
In Williamsport, the world’s best 12-year-old baseball players from Mexico to Elizabeth, N.J., from Chungcheong, South Korea to Coon Rapids/Andover, Minn., from Venezuela to Australia remind us why nostalgia beats in the chambers of the heart.
In Williamsport, it doesn’t matter if you have the crazy batting stance of Venezuela’s Deivis Ordonez or the cool “Jersey Shake” celebration of the Elmora Youth Little League team.
In Williamsport, you have players nicknamed ‘Chicken Little,’ yet on these beautiful summer days and nights, no kid fears a gunman bursting into their classroom.
In Williamsport, Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo blasts a two-run homer off the scoreboard and gives the ball to Japan’s shortstop because all of the Japanese players dapped him up.
In Williamsport, it doesn’t matter that Maddy Freking has long blond hair. It matters that she can throw strikes and make the force play at home.
In Williamsport, players on the Rhode Island team honor the memory of a Kentucky player they never met. Bowling Green coach Jef Goodnight lost his 10-year-old son Mason to a rare form of bacterial meningitis in 2017.
Before Kentucky played Rhode Island, the New England champs touched Mason’s jersey which is displayed the Great Lakes champs’ dugout.
“We’re so fortunate to be here, and we went over to his jersey and I prayed and then I gave his dad a handshake,” Lucas Tanous, 11, told ESPN. “”It’s just so sad, but we all touched his jersey because I bet he was such a nice kid.”
In Williamsport, the Venezuelan players and coaches stop their walk-off celebration to console the Dominican Republic pitcher who gave up a two-run double in the bottom of the 6th.
In Williamsport, kids aren’t glued to their smartphones. They’re watching the next game or the previous game or sliding down the hill beyond the center field on cardboard boxes, like Cubs manager Joe Madden.
In Williamsport, the only fences are in the outfield. In Williamsport, 12-year-olds from around the world, open their arms to one another, not their mouths. In Williamsport, America’s pastime brings the world together.