Kids are competing in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Some of the world's best young ballplayers are competing in the 76th Little League World Series. Teams travel from places as far as Japan, Venezuela and Australia. And the championship game is coming up on Sunday. Rachel McDevitt from member station WITF reports from the birthplace of Little League, South Williamsport, Pa.
RACHEL MCDEVITT, BYLINE: Pretty much every year since 1947, fans gather in this rural Pennsylvania town for a ritual that sounds like this.
MCDEVITT: When it started, the tournament only had teams from the area. Then it grew to include the whole country. Now it's the whole world.
MCDEVITT: In its recent matchup against Canada, the Mexico team ran away with the game in the fourth inning, scoring eight runs.
DIANA ABARCA: I was like, OK, that's insane.
MCDEVITT: Diana Abarca is draped in a Mexican flag. Her nephew, Arath Laborin, pitched the final innings against Canada. She moved to New Jersey from Mexico years ago. This is the first time she's seeing her nephew since he was about 5 years old.
ABARCA: I remember, like, when he was little, he was all round-faced. And now he's, like - looks like a little baseball player. And I was like, oh, man. Time has changed.
MCDEVITT: Abarca says many fans here are like her, originally from Mexico.
ABARCA: But they live around. And they know, like, that Mexico is playing, and they come to support, even if they don't know the kid. They're like, Mexico? I'm going to support.
MCDEVITT: Other fans accompanied the team all the way from Tijuana to the tournament, including pitcher Laborin's dad, Rafael. He's beaming.
RAFAEL: I feel very proud and grateful to God because he brings the opportunity. And I'm so happy, I'm so happy.
MCDEVITT: There's also a national tournament happening. Many fans are here to support the local team.
MCDEVITT: Media, Pa., is representing the mid-Atlantic region. On this day, they lost to the Metro region team from Rhode Island. Final score, 7 to 2. Media coach Tom Bradley.
TOM BRADLEY: It's not the end of the world. We made it to the Little League World Series. We won a game. And, you know, we would have liked to win today. And, you know, everybody wants to keep winning and stuff. But sometimes you run into a team that plays better than you.
MCDEVITT: Metro coach Eric Gibree says his team is gritty, but they also have some luck on their side. The team and their parents and siblings look for four-leaf clovers ahead of their games.
ERIC GIBREE: It's just something that we started during the States and carried over into regionals and something we do here, takes the kids' minds off of things.
MCDEVITT: Metro pitcher Brady McShane says he tries not to let the crowds get to him.
BRADY MCSHANE: I imagine we just started playing at our home field, nobody's really in the stands.
MCDEVITT: But there are lots of fans, more than 20,000 of them in the stands and in the steep field that overlooks the outfield behind the main stadium. Baseball is not the only sport happening here. Kids, like 11-year-old Bryce Schreffler, sled down the hill on cardboard. He's keeping an eye on the games and dreaming about next season.
BRYCE SCHREFFLER: I play third, catcher and second.
MCDEVITT: Schreffler says he loves everything about baseball.
BRYCE: I like hitting, pitching, catching. I love baseball so much, like, a lot (laughter).
MCDEVITT: He was too young for Little League this year but hopes to be out of the stands and on the field next year.
For NPR News, I'm Rachel McDevitt in South Williamsport, Pa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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