Bats wing Little Leaguers to World Series

Coquitlam used its bats to win the provincial and then Canadian Little League championships.

So it was only fitting a bat sent them off to Williamsport, Penn., where they’re preparing to represent the country at the Little League World Series, which begins Thursday.

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Except this bat had wings.

Coquitlam coach Robert Piasentin said the morning after his young charges defeated Quebec 6-3, powered by home runs from Matthew Shanley and Timothy Piasentin, to win the Canadian title, the team’s dorm room in Ancaster, Ont. was invaded by a tiny winged mammal.

“They all panicked and locked themselves in an upstairs bedroom until I came and got them out,” Piasentin said, adding their fear was quickly usurped by excitement and anticipation as the team embarked on its four-hour journey by bus to Williamsport.

It has been a whirlwind three weeks for the group of 11- and 12-year-old boys and their families. Shanley’s seven homers led them to a provincial championship July 28 in Vancouver, then the player nicknamed Beef Dip hit three more at the national tournament while contributing a dominating pitching performance in last Saturday’s final.

“Everything has happened so quickly,” Piasentin said. “The boys have had no time to really soak everything in.”

That includes being introduced on the field at the Hamilton Tiger Cats’ football game Saturday night against the BC Lions. But the boys could only stay at the game until halftime so they could pack and rest for their early morning departure to Pennsylvania.

Piasentin said the adrenalin finally waned during the bus trip, and many of the players and coaches were able to steal a nap. But it fired up again as their motor coach pulled up to Lamade Stadium, where the Little League World Series is played in front of crowds up to 40,000 people.

“To say the kids’ jaws hit the floor is an understatement,” he said.

The team has since settled into its dorm beyond the stadium’s right field fence, where the kids are all bunked in one great room and the coaches are in two adjoining rooms.

“Getting them to sleep has been the big challenge,” Piasentin said.

Monday, the team got its first chance to familiarize themselves with the big stadium and practised at the adjoining Volunteer Stadium.

Piasentin said it was an eye-popping experience for everyone.

“The boys loved it,” he said. “The fields are Major League Baseball quality and nothing like we have ever played on.”

Almost equally as thrilling for the boys has been pulling on their newly issued Team Canada uniforms and gear from Easton and Adidas, Piasentin said.

“These boys are now Team Canada, and they are extremely excited to have their parents see them in their Canada uniforms.”

Most of those parents, as well as family and friends, arrived in Williamsport Monday and Tuesday — in time for Wednesday afternoon’s big parade of the 16 international and U.S. teams participating in the tournament.

Beyond that, though, the players’ chances to see their supporters will be limited until the tournament concludes Aug. 25. They’re not even allowed access to the internet, so they can focus on baseball, Piasentin said.

But that doesn’t mean they’re oblivious to the excitement they’ve generated as the first team from Coquitlam to represent Canada at the Little League World Series since 1984.

“They do know this will be big news back home,” Piasentin said. “They are pretty aware of the significance and understand how rare a feat this is and has been.”

• Canada plays its first game of the tournament against Mexico Friday at 3 p.m. PDT. If they win, they’ll play the winner of Friday’s game between Europe-Africa and Japan on Sunday at 10 a.m. PDT. If they lose, they’ll play the loser of that game on Saturday at 3 p.m. PDT. The tournament is being broadcast on TSN. Go to tricitynews.com for game reports and photos.

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