I was pleased, yesterday, to see pictures in the paper of Hawaii’s baseball team celebrating their victory over South Korea in the Little League World Series championship game.
Though I felt a bit of Made-in-America pride, my reaction was mainly relief that no one was hurt in the winner’s post-game celebration.
This was of special concern in light of what happened in one of the qualifying games, about a week ago, when Southeastern North Dakota beat Northwestern South Dakota in an incredibly exciting game that ended in the bottom of the fifteenth inning with a two-out, walk-off, three-run homer.
It started when the SND player on first, who broke for second the minute bat hit ball, saw the ball go over the fence and jumped excitedly on second base, twisting his ankle. The runner who had been on second, and was nearing third, slowed down when he heard his teammate cry out in pain, and then headed back toward second to help him.
Meanwhile, the home-run hitter had exuberantly tossed his bat behind him, hitting the on-deck batter on the shin (a little blood, but no break), and proceeding to race around first leaping and whooping, unaware of the damage done.
The third base coach, who knew that the boys still had to touch all the bases, plus home plate, and in their original order, shouted at the home-run hitter to slow down just as he was about to touch second. The lad, startled, turned toward the coach, tripped over the base, and skinned both his elbows.
The coach kept his head and, as his wounded warriors painfully regrouped, gently encouraged them around third. Once they were past, he followed them cautiously toward the plate, which, by this time, was completely surrounded by the rest of the team, jumping up and down (two boys got trodden on; one metatarsal was broken).
The hero, following custom, tossed his batting helmet in the air as he neared home plate. The arc of the helmet, fortunately, was behind him, away from the scrum of celebrating players. It did, however, hit the third-base coach squarely, giving him a minor concussion.
The three runners were able to touch home plate — in proper order — and somehow escaped the exuberant pileup that produced two sprained wrists and a broken rib (but, thankfully, no asphyxiation).
Those players who were not yet injured then grabbed the Gatorade cooler (in the lifting of which one back was strained and one possible hernia incurred) and doused the manager, who is still under observation for a cold-shock-induced heart attack.
Later, once the injured were treated and all ambulances had left for the hospital, a journalist asked the few remaining SND players for their reaction. They regretted what had happened but pleaded that they were only doing what they had seen major-leaguers do many times.
A short time later, LL World Series management announced that, with only five able-bodied players left, Southeastern North Dakota would forfeit their game against Northern South Carolina (which subsequently lost to Eastern West Virginia).
The manager, the third-base coach, and the Commissioner of Baseball were unavailable for comment.