Hagerstown kids enjoy star status at Little League World Series

August 19, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - While they might never have their own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Federal Little League 11-12 All-Stars are learning what it's like to be celebrities.

At the Little League World Series, all the players are stars.

"It's been pretty cool because all these little kids will come up to you and ask for their autograph," said Josh Moats. "It's been awesome. When I was a little kid, I'd always dream of coming up and playing here, and my dream has come true."

Federal (1-1), the Mid-Atlantic champions, suffered a 15-5 loss to Northwest champion Mill Creek Wash. (1-1), on Monday afternoon. It's Federal's first loss in 16 games since the start of All-Star play. Federal will face Southwest champion Lake Charles, La. (2-0), tonight at 8 on ESPN2.

The loss might have temporarily dampened the spirits of Federal's players, but it didn't last for long. There's too much to do, and too many teammates and other teams with whom to do it.


One of the annual highlights of the Little League World Series is the trading of collector's pins, given to teams at every district, state and regional tournament. There are hundreds of unique pins, and the players will try all sorts of things to get as many as possible.

"It's their main activity up here," Federal manager Bill Abeles said. "The kids become real hustlers trying to make their collection as big as it can be."

"It's really crazy. A lot of people come down (to the fields) to trade because everybody has good pins here," Mark Grunberg said. "You try to trade some good ones for some better ones. If it's a really good one, you may trade two for that one."

"You can get pins from Japan and all the other countries," Moats said. "If it's a big pin, you might want to (trade) two or three small ones for it."

All 16 teams stay in dormitories -- in an area known as "The Grove" -- during the Little League World Series. The rec room is one of the top gathering places for the players.

"The rec room is a lot of fun," Zane Schreiber said. "It's a good place to hang out, have fun with my team and other teams."

Josh Barron said his favorite thing to do when not playing a game was "going to the rec room and playing pingpong."

Federal is staying in the same dorm as Japan's Edogawa Minami Little League team from Tokyo.

"You can't really talk to them, but it's kind of neat to be in the same dorm with them," Grunberg said. "Their league was the one Dice-K (Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka) played in, and their coach coached him."

"These 12- and 13-year-olds, it does not matter whether they can speak the language or not, they learn to communicate," Abeles said. "All the players have learned how to say 'hello' in Japanese, and when they see them, that's all they say."

For some players, the best part of the Little League World Series is watching the other 15 teams play.

"Every team is good around here. It's the 16 best teams in the world," Schreiber said. "There's talent everywhere."

It's not hard to spot it, either. Just look for the kids signing autographs.

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