Team Canada’s first opponent at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. is a bit of a mystery to the team’s coaching staff.
Robert Piasentin, one of the coaches from the Coquitlam Little League team that is wearing the red and white, said the only thing the locals know about the Mexican team from Epitacio “Mala” Torres Little League, in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, is that they have a fearsome pitching staff, with four hurlers who can throw over 70 mph — and that’s information the staff is not inclined to share with the young players.
“We have not told the kids that intentionally because that may be intimidating for them,” Piasentin said, although there’s little doubt the kids have their own sources of information as all the teams stay together in the same dormitory complex just beyond the outfield fence at Lamade Stadium.
Piasentin said when the team hasn’t been practising twice a day, they’re at the dorm complex meeting kids from all over the world and trading pins and T-shirts.
“We really want the kids to have fun,” he said. “This is supposed to be a great experience for them and so we want them to really soak it in and enjoy everything.”
The international scope of the event has also brought with it other pressures and obligations, such as interviews with ESPN, the host broadcaster, as well as meetings with tournament sponsors and Little League officials. And on Wednesday, all the teams participated in the Grand Slam Parade through town.
“That was a wild experience,” Piasentin said of the parade, which attracted about 50,000 people. “They were throwing candy, foam baseballs, freezies and countless other treats to the kids, they were asking for autographs, they took photos. It was amazing.”
Piasentin said it can all be a bit overwhelming. But boys will still be boys and they find ways to relieve the stress, like watching practices from the balcony of their dorm or splashing about in the pool at the centre of the living complex.
“They have more than enough kid distractions to keep them busy,” Piasentin said.
They’re also getting messages of support from all over the country, including one on Twitter from B.C. Premier John Horgan. Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, with which Coquitlam Little League shares a nickname and a colour scheme, also posted a congratulatory note.
Not that the kids are able to read them, as the Little League organization restricts internet access in the dorm complex, Piasentin said.
If Canada is able to beat Mexico on Friday, they’ll face the winner of the game between Japan and the representative from Europe-Africa, Emilia Romagna Little League in Bologna, Italy, on Sunday.
Piasentin said Japan may be one of the more formidable teams in the 16-team tournament.
“They are amazing and practice at a high tempo,” he said. “We can learn a lot about how to practice and play by watching those practices.”