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The More the Game Changes

The More it Stays the Same

Wow! What a start to the Little League World Series, and as you’re reading this, things are just starting to get really interesting over on the Hill in South Williamsport.

In my column last week, I focused on the Little League Pledge and the importance of doing things the right way. I used Philly’s pitcher Michael Lorenzen and his no-hit performance as an example of how hard work, perseverance, and opportunity can come together to create moments of a lifetime. These unbelievable and spontaneous events can unite and transcend sports. Well, it didn’t take long for the Little Leaguers to provide those amazing moments that you just never know when are going to happen within the great game of baseball.

The 76th playing of the LLWS began with two no-hitters on the opening day; talk about throwing out the first pitch and getting things started. This was just the opening act leading up to what was to happen on day two, as three Chinese Taipei pitchers combined for a perfect game. Ironically, the last time this event happened at LLWS was when the same two teams, Chinese Taipei and Canada, met about six years ago.

This year’s version of perfection even included an immaculate inning — three up, three down. Nine strikes were thrown by the pitcher, and three strikeouts recorded by the official scorer. Just in case you didn’t know, a little baseball knowledge provided courtesy of team Taiwan and pitcher Fan Chen-Jun.

Some other amazing numbers regarding Chen-Jun in his 3 2/3 innings of pitching: he threw 30 of 35 pitches for strikes, consistently hit 80 miles an hour, and hit a 2-run homer. At press time, I had not seen all 20 teams play yet, however, Taiwan seems to be the team to beat, and Chen-Jun appears to be the player to watch. Their roster seems to be loaded with talent and outstanding pitching. This is even more important at the plate this year with the continuous batting order, where everyone on the roster bats.

I know one thing for certain: if Bill Byham were still with us, he would be beyond impressed with the pitching and defense being witnessed this year. As I listened to Gary Chrisman and Tom O’Malley broadcasting a game, I couldn’t help but think about Mr. Byham, as I always called him. I still miss hearing his voice and thoughts about what was going on with the young pitchers and the game in general.

I would love to get his take on the evolution of pitching and the velocity and command being exhibited by so many players on each team. I’m sure he would also cover the catching position and how good every catcher has to be to handle these kids and what they are bringing to the dish. And that’s something he would definitely remind us of; these are just kids out there.

Mr. Byham believed games and championships were won with pitching and defense. Both of which were taught, learned, and practiced long before game day. I’m sure he is looking down, smiling, as this becomes even more evident with every passing Little League game.

Back to those voices on the radio. It just wouldn’t be the LLWS without listening to Gary, Tom, Ken Sawyer, Scott Lowery, and Tom Speicher.

At a time when everything is about watching the game on the screen of your choice, I love to listen to them paint the picture and bring the game to life with words. This was how baseball first became America’s Pastime long ago. I’m sure many of you can think of that special LLWS moment shared with the gang long before every game was televised.

A tip of my Webb Weekly cap with the American Flag on the side to the broadcasting crew, who truly make a great event even better.

A reminder to all: as the action continues to move forward toward crowning a World Series Champion, don’t forget about the 13th Annual Williamsport Welcomes the World celebration this Friday in downtown Williamsport. Over 20,000 people participated in the 2022 event. The street festival has a variety of programs, including live music, kids’ zones full of fun and free activities, along with various food and merchandise vendors.

The Grand Slam Parade and Williamsport Welcomes the World provide great book-end events right in the heart of Williamsport. They are a great way to share in the joy and pageantry of the LLWS and enjoy all that downtown has to offer.

My closing thought on the LLWS is how great it is that the event has expanded to 20 teams. It’s fantastic to see Cuba here in person and not just in the movie “Mickey.”

On the United States side, I just think of all the more opportunities teams from across our Country have to reach the Field of Dreams for every Little League player. And how I wish we had the current format when my kids were playing. To Steve Keener and his gang up on the hill, thank you for the great leadership and making this happen.

Get out and about and enjoy all August has to offer.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb