Jeff Chapman LL Diary 2004

August 8, 2006

Jeff Chapman’s daily diary from the EMEA Big League and Little League championships in Germany and Poland, 7/19 to 8/3/04.

SUNDAY, 7/19, 3 PM AT RAMSTEIN AIR BASE

Landed in Frankfurt Saturday afternoon on schedule and made the hour-long drive out to Ramstein Air Base…my visitor badge allows me to go just about anywhere on base the average soldier can go, with one exception – I
can’t buy gas on base…it’s rationed, and for military only…all the cargo flights to Iraq and the rest of that region start here, so this is a happening place…when a plane takes off, EVERYONE knows it – they’re big, and they’re loud…this is also the location that many wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan are being cared
for, and if all goes according to plan, tomorrow morning’s opening ceremonies of the European Big League Baseball Championships will be highlighted by 5 wounded soldiers throwing out first pitches.

We had our umpires meeting this morning and then went out and walked the field…it’s not much to look at – certainly, it’s not as nice as most all the 90-foot diamonds in the Tri-Valley…but the military is going to “dress it up” between today and tomorrow morning’s ceremonies and first games.

Teams arrived this afternoon – we saw the Romanians and Dutch teams checking in at the visitor center…the Romanians don’t look very athletic and their coach said that his team is here primarily “for the experience.”…the Dutch look VERY athletic, and if what i saw from the
dutch 12-year-old team in Poland last year is any indication, they will play very competitively…the biggest issue with the Dutch, from what I could see today, is going to be getting them to take off all that jewelry – lots of necklaces, earrings, nose rings and chin rings – before gametime…the German team, comprised of soldiers’ kids on the base, is already here, of course…Austria will arrive later today.

We’ll meet with the coaches in a couple of hours, followed by a BBQ down at the field that the base is throwing for all the participants…tomorrow at 9 will be the opening ceremonies…there will be games at 10 am and 1 pm each day through Wednesday as each team plays the other three…Thursday will be semifinals – seed 1 vs. seed 4, and seed 2 vs. seed 3…Friday will
be the consolation and championship games…every team gets five games, no matter what…Friday’s winner goes to South Carolina for the Big League World Series.

Umpires working this tournament are Sam Griffith from District 55 in Mission Viejo, CA (he is the umpire in chief for this event), first sargeant Dale Cowan (American who lives two hours from Ramstein), two umpires from the Netherlands, and me…the plan is to work 4-man crews each game, with the plate umpire for the AM game sitting out the PM game each day, and vice versa.

Temperatures aren’t bad, but the humidity is oppressive…and if last night’s lightning and thunderstorm, which blew over picnic tables and launched umbrellas at the outdoor restaurant we were at, is a sign of things to come, it could be an interesting week…of course, with only two games a day and sunset at 9:30 pm, we have lots of time to wait.

The plan is to be done here by Friday and then Sam and I would leave Saturday for the European Little League championships (12-year-olds) in Kutno, Poland.

MONDAY, 7/19 FROM RAMSTEIN, 3:30 PM

First-day games from the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) Big League Regional at Ramstein Air Base are in the books…wipeout city!…Ramstein American beat Austria 12-2 in 6 innings and Windmills Little League (Netherlands) made short work of Romania, 26-0 in a game stopped after just 4 innings by mutual consent.

These two games indicate what we’d sensed going in – that there are really only two mark-your-calendar games in this tournament – Wednesday afternoon’s pool play game between Ramstein and Netherlands, and the winner-take-all game between the same two teams on Friday for the right to go to South Carolina for the Big League World Series…anything keeping these two teams from winning their semifinal games on Thursday
would be stunning.

The opening ceremonies were colorful and, fortunately, short…there was a lot planned for the ceremony, including having injured soldiers recovering from injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan throwing out first pitches…let’s just say the organization of that special event wasn’t where it needed to be, so the base pulled the plug.

It took Netherlands 5 hours to drive to Ramstein…for Austria, whose has a coach, Ken MacDonald, who is from Quincy, Mass., it was a 7-hour drive…but for the poor Romanians – and I DO mean poor – it was 36 hours over three days in a bus without air conditioning…so they were pretty well spent before their first game this afternoon – not that all the rest in the world would have mattered…their pitcher, one of the only English-speaking players on the team, threw strikes, but it was like batting practice for the Dutch, who lined ball after ball into the gap or over the fences…the pitcher smiled all the while…when he was removed in the third inning, I came over from my second-base position to console him…he didn’t need it, saying, in essence, “we’re a very young team (mostly 16-year-olds) and we knew this was not going to be easy, but we wanted to come here and show our young players just how hard they are going to have to work to be as good as the Dutch and the Americans.”

We delayed the start of the game a few minutes while the Romanian catcher tried to locate a protective cup (he ended up borrowing one from the Ramstein team)…when the starting pitcher left the game, he changed shoes with the relief pitcher because they only had one set of cleats between them (not sure if they wear the same size or not, but they made it work)…no belts…whatever hat they could find…some with socks, some not…but they didn’t seem embarrassed to be out there with the
well-dressed and athletic Dutch club, and that was cool to see.

Tomorrow’s games also figure to be one-sided as Ramstein plays Romania, followed by Netherlands vs. Austria…after working bases on both games today, I get the morning off and work the plate in the afternoon…assignments for the semifinals and finals later in the week will be determined Wednesday night.

For you umpires, here’s my “play of the day.”…I woke up at 3 am today (jet lag) and since I couldn’t go back to sleep, I was flipping through my rule book while watching television…one of the rules I saw that I kind of chuckle at each time I read it is the one that says if a player throws his glove at a batted ball and hits it, it’s a three-base award…so what happens in the first inning of the Netherlands-Romania game? ball is hit into the right-center field gap and past the bewildered right fielder, who stops and throws his glove at the ball as it’s rolling by him toward the fence…just another reminder that whatever “stuff” CAN happen, WILL happen
eventually.

TUESDAY, 7/20 FROM RAMSTEIN, 5 PM

Today’s second round of pool play went exactly as expected – routs by the Americans (Ramstein) and the Dutch…Ramstein beat Romania, whose players were wearing new socks thanks to a donation from the Austrians, 17-3 in 5 innings, while Netherlands hammered Austria 22-5 in another game shortened to 5 innings by the 10-run rule.

No doubt, one of these two teams will represent the European Region at the Big League World Series in South Carolina starting next weekend…they play each other tomorrow in pool play (which is pretty meaningless, actually) and then, barring a big upset, will face off Friday in the winner-takes-all championship game.

The edge goes to the Dutch right now, but no matter who wins this regional, they won’t have had anywhere near as tough a road to the world series as any team in the U.S….for instance, there are only two big league teams in the Netherlands…they play each other as often as weather allows (apparently, they played eight times), take the best from those teams and represent their country at the regional…the Ramstein team didn’t have to play anybody to be here – all the other base teams they play in Europe are not currently members of Little League, so they qualify on the basis of “winning” the military berth to the regional.

Teams in the U.S., on the other hand, have to surivive a sectional, a divisional and a regional to get to South Carolina – upwards of 20-25 games against the best competition in the states.

Believe me, the coaches from Netherlands and Ramstein know how lucky they are to basically play one meaningful game all season and punch a ticket to the states…so many good teams from this region aren’t here – Ukraine, South Africa, the German Nationals and Poland, to name four…for most teams, the issue is finances…but if Romania can get here with their limited pocketbook, the feeling is that some of those other countries should have been here, too…perhaps when I am in Poland next week at the European Little League Headquarters, I’ll get a better idea as to why only four teams made it to Ramstein.

I had the plate for the Netherlands game today after sitting out the morning game…tomorrow, I am back on the bases for what could be two very competitive games – Romania-Austria in the morning, and Netherlands-Ramstein in the afternoon…after those games, umpire assignments for Thursday’s semifinals and Friday’s championship games will be announced.

This tournament, like the ones going on at Kutno and other sites throughout Europe, isn’t about anything more than cultural differences, deep pockets vs. no pockets, and little or no expectations beyond the championship game, even for the winner…baseball is just too new in this part of the world for any team to believe it can win the European championship and parlay that into anything else.

Then again, you watch this Netherlands team – they do EVERYTHING well – and you wonder if these kids might be the first European champion to make hay on the world stage.

WEDNESDAY, 7/21 FROM RAMSTEIN, 5 PM

We had a game today that defies description…3 umpire interference “issues” in the same game…how many do you see in a LIFETIME? …Sam Griffith, who was the plate umpire, said he hadn’t seen one in 16 years.

The first occurred on a pop fly behind the plate where Sam and the Netherlands catcher simply couldn’t get out of each other’s way, and the ball dropped foul…nothing we could have ruled except inadvertant contact, so we played on…but it was the sign of things to come…in the next inning, with a runner at first, the batter hit a shot toward shortstop that hit the second-base umpire in the foot…we ruled correctly, but the Netherlands coach didn’t like the rule, so he protested…we asked tournament director John Kuykendall for his ruling, and he concurred with the umpires…the coach wanted to take it further, so we cleared the
field and called Kutno, Poland, the headquarters of L.L. in europe…no one of authority was available because of games being played at the time, so we had no choice but to call Williamsport – 8 a.m. Wednesday Eastern time…had to leave a message…by this time, the Netherlands coach had read the rule another dozen times, including a Dutch translation, and was satisfied we were doing the right thing, so he pulled his protest and we played on after a 30-minute delay…two innings later, on a routine play at first, the ball got through the first baseman and the runner made a VERY wide turn heading to second and ran into the first-base umpire…again, inadvertant contact.

As umpires, we strive for anonymity…today, we strived for plays that did not involve us…I was the first-base umpire, for those of you wondering which play involved me.

Ramstein beat the Netherlands 8-2 behind the play of Dustin Linger, who pitched five shutout innings and had three hits, including a home run…his parents, who are from West Virginia, manage and coach the team…his sister works in the snack bar…baseball junkies, all of them!

This was the “meaningless,” pool-play game between these two teams…no doubt, they’ll play again Friday for the right to go to South Carolina for the Big League World Series…in other action today, Austria handled Romania 11-4 in a game marked by a rundown between second and third that involved SEVEN of the Austrian players (everyone but the catcher and right fielder touched the ball)…unbelievably, no obstruction…nothing even close…when the inning was over,
we were looking for someone – ANYone – who might have the play on video…no luck.

In THIS game, the Dutch plate umpire took a pitched ball flush on the back of his left hand – the batter swung and missed and the catcher whiffed…within just a couple of seconds, his hand swelled to double its size…we were
delayed 20 minutes while Sam changed to take over plate duties.

All in all, not a great day for umpires…trouble just kept finding us.

THURSDAY, 7/22 FROM RAMSTEIN, 5 PM

And so it was, that on the fourth day of the 2004 European/Middle East/Africa Big League Championships from Ramstein Air Base, the big winner was ………….. Romania.

No, not on the field…the Romanians lost to Ramstein 15-2 in the first semifinal, and Netherlands polished off Austria 8-1 in the late game, setting up tomorrow’s noon championship game that launches the winner to South Carolina…I have been awarded the plate for the game, but let’s get back to the Romanians.

Romania’s whirlwind 24-hour lovefest was initiated Wednesday afternoon when they informed tournament organizers that they were going to
have to pull out and go home because $500 that was supposed to be wired to them here was not going to arrive…that sprung numerous groups into
action.

The manager of the Ramstein team, Ken Linger, sent a base email that there was a team in trouble…within two hours, various military groups came out to the field and offered to help…they asked the Romanians to stay one more day, during which time some fundraising efforts would take place to assist them.

So the umpires took the Romanian kids, who we found out hadn’t been eating very well, to pizza last night…the Ramstein team took them to breakfast this morning…soon after the Romanian kids got to the field for their 10 am game today, there were 15 sets of brand new baseball cleats delivered by soldiers, donated by one of the flight squadrons…we actually held up the start of the game 10 minutes so that the kids could rifle through all the boxes, find their sizes, try them on and get a feel for how it feels to walk a half-inch higher off the ground.

In the second inning, another donation arrived – batting gloves, thanks to another group on base…then it was three brand new bats, still wrapped in plastic…about the 5th inning, Armed Forces Network television showed up to film the game and do post-game interviews on the plight of the Romanians and the outpouring of support…when the Austrians showed up for their 1 o’clock game, they brought 10 bags of food and a cooler filled with Gatorade for the Romanians’ 36-hour drive home (earlier, the Austrians had given the Romanians matching socks with stripes that matched their bright red uniforms, and the Dutch had given the Romanian matching hats)…one family donated $150, which was used to buy the kids lunch at Subway…there were other cash donations, some of which were given to the Romanians to assist with gas and paying the two bus drivers who brought them here.

And I am proud to say that my host league, Dublin L.L., had given me 10 SETS of baseball uniforms to bring to Europe for needy teams…the box arrived just Monday, 5 weeks after I sent it, so I was able to offer one of the 3 larger-sized sets of uniforms to the Romanians…I offered them Diamondbacks, Cubs and White Sox…after mulling over the choices, they determined that Diamondbacks (black) would be too hot and that Cubs (white) would get dirty too easily…many of them changed into their new, gray White Sox jerseys as they were leaving – too funny to see the kids sifting through the jerseys for their “lucky” numbers…the Romanians also took home with  them some other DLL donations – baseball gloves for some of the younger kids in their league, some new baseballs and, thanks to the Scillitani family, about a thousand baseball/football/hockey trading cards.

I’m sure there were other donations that I’m not aware of, but you get the idea…the Romanians didn’t know quite how to react to all this attention…they admitted to being embarrassed about taking food, or not being charged at the snack bar…but these were GREAT kids who played with a passion for baseball and never looked dejected…they celebrated their
four or five good plays/hits each game as though they were game-winners…never mind the fact that the Romanians were outscored about 70-10 this week.

When I get to Poland on Saturday for the start of the European 12-year-old tournament, there will be other stories like this – Lithuania, Bulgaria, Belarus and others have similar financial constraints…fortunately, i still have 9 sets of jerseys and tons of  trading cards, and just about every other umpire who comes to Poland brings some form of donation for the needy teams and the local orphanage.

Anyone interested in assisting in this cause should coordinate their efforts through John Kuykendall, who was the tournament director representing Little League here and who hails from Riverside, CA…he can be reached via email at john.kuykendall@us.army.mil and he has information about how to get various donations to the teams that need them.

Talk to you after the championship game!


FRIDAY, 7/23 FROM RAMSTEIN, 4 PM

Last year, I was excited to be awarded the plate for the European Little League chamnpionships (12-year-olds), and then quite disappointed that the game was so one-sided…Russia scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning and beat  Netherlands 18-1…when I learned that I would be working the plate for the European Big League championship game today, all I could think was, “Give me a good ballgame to work!”

Well, the game was everything i’d hoped it would be…Netherlands beat Ramstein 8-3 to earn a berth in next week’s Big League World Series…only three of the Netherlands players have ever been to the U.S. before – they graduated high school early and played this past season at a junior college in Arizona…I don’t think the Dutch will have much of a shot in South Carolina, but their goal is realistic – try to win one game, and then try to win another.

The 1st inning for the Dutch went like this – leadoff homer, error, 2-run homer…Ramstein appeared deflated from that quick 3-0 deficit, and while the game continued to be competitive, I never felt that the Dutch were seriously threatened, although the game ended with the bases loaded and Ramstein’s top two hitters popping out and striking out.

The crowd was the largest of the week and despite the fact that the game was contested on a U.S. military base that is home to 27,000 people, the Dutch had more fans.

As an umpirig team, we did well – we were on top of every play and had no controversy…our goal was to start anonymous and STAY anonymous, and we succeeded.

Saturday, Sam Griffith and I catch the train at 9 am and get into Kutno, Poland, at 9 pm after transferring in both Mannheim and Berlin (so no email!)…fortunately, Ken MacDonald, the Austrian coach, will be in Kutno with his other son’s team, so he is hauling the big box of uniforms I have to Poland in his van…not sure how I’d get them there otherwise.

Sunday, it’s umpires meetings and coaches meetings and then the European 12-year-old tournament starts Monday…I don’t mind taking the next two days off from umpiring – my batteries need charging after eight games the last five days in high temperatures and high humidity…and I get a day to reflect on one of the biggest umpiring thrills of my life.

SUNDAY, 7/25 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 7 PM

Just finished our umpires and coaches meetings here at the European Little League complex in Kutno, and we’re ready to open 10 days of baseball Monday…teams are here from Austria, Bulgaria, France, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Scotland and Slovenia, and from this group will come the European / Middle East / Africa representative to the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Kazakhstan came the furthest, but it sounds like Bulgaria had the most interesting trip…it took the Bulgarians 48 hours to get to Kutno because their bus broke a transmission in Hungary and they had to spend two nights sleeping in a gas station as mechanics attempted repair…the Bulgarians finally arrived at 4:15 this morning and their
coach, who is a humanitarian relief advocate from Colorado Springs, CO, said that the kids were so excited when they got here, they immediately changed clothes and went out to play soccer under the moonlight…the L.L. complex here has added soccer goals, ping pong tables, basketball hoops and a volleyball/badmninton net since last year to give these 11- and 12-year-olds
something more to do when they’re not playing baseball.

You might wonder, why Kutno? Well, in short, because of Stan Musial…Stan’s family immigrated from Kutno, and when he heard of Little League’s plight to find a location in the center of this region, he urged the town of Kutno to make a donation of land…Little League picked up most of the rest of the tab…the 90-foot stadium here is named for Musial…the 60-foot stadium is named for Edward Piszak, who was the founder of Mrs. Paul’s fishsticks and who donated millions of dollars
to Little League to build up the center after the land was secured…they now have five championship fields here and a sixth is halfway done…the masterplan calls for a few more over the next 10 years, as well as a new administration building so that the one being used now can be converted back to its originally proposed use – as a team dorm.

For most all of these kids, their first glimpse of the two stadiums is awe-inspiring…quite frankly, it is for first-time umpires, too…I guarantee you’ve never seen fields so perfect that aren’t home to major league ballclubs or their affiliates…the groundskeepers here are perfectionists and work round the clock, literally…they trained in the
states and it shows.

We have 10 umpires currently on site for this 11-team tournament – four from California (including Russ Ruslender from Danville, the UIC), one from Missouri, one from Connecticut, one from France, one from Germany, one from the Netherlands (Bobby Gumbs, who will work the Little League World Series this year in Williamsport), and one from Canada…a couple more are expected from Germany, but they aren’t in the lineup until they get
here…initially, I’ll work with Russ, and our group has just one game tomorrow – under the lights at Piszak Stadium.

One look at the athletes roaming the facility today would indicate that the Kutno and Netherlands teams will be among the best…last year’s champion, Russia, which had many 11-year-olds, was not invited back this year as a result of use of an ineligible player…too bad in some respects, because they were the absolute class of this tournament.

The Slovenia coach (another American, ironically, this one from Miami) told me that most of the kids on his team had never played baseball before three WEEKS ago – his country is just reviving its L.L. program…there would appear to be a lot more teams like Slovenia and Scotland here this week than like Poland or the Netherlands.

But then, that’s not what this tournament is about…it’s about a relatively new sport getting its foot just a little further in the door, and about teams from all over this region experiencing this wonderful complex and each other for 10 days…and we’re lucky enough to be a part of it.

MONDAY, 7/26 FROM KUTNO, 9:30 PM

Remember the last play of the football game in The Longest Yard? you know,
the play where Burt Reynolds scores the touchdown from the 1-yard line that
allows the convicts to beat the guards? slOOOOOOOw motion…well, tonight’s game between Scotland and Bulgaria under the lights in the stadium reminded me a LOT of that.

It didn’t figure to be a marquee game to begin with…Bulgaria was 10-runned in most every game it played last year, and Scotland was playing in its
first-ever 12-year-old European Regional.

The intrigue began about 15 minutes before the game when one of the L.L. staff asked me if Scotland had taken infield yet…I said I didn’t know, but that i’d check…I asked the manager, Diane Harley, and her response caught me a bit off guard: “infield?”…I said, “you know, where one of you coaches goes out and hits the ball to your players and gets them ready for the game.”…she looked at me rather inquisitively and said, “do you think we should?”…”infield” was a bit of a 3-ring circus – the ball was flying around everywhere.

In the top of the first inning, Bulgaria scored a run…as Scotland was preparing to bat in the bottom of the first inning, it began to rain…it rained long, and it rained hard…we sent the kids to their dugouts to wait it out…as I passed the Scotland dugout, I heard one of the coaches say, “ok guys, here we go, this is OUR kind of weather.”…I couldn’t help but chuckle.

An inning later, Bulgaria led 12-0 and was preparing to come up to hit in the third…I heard the Scotland catcher call “second base” so I turned to tell the second baseman to be ready….alas, no second baseman…the catcher threw anyway…the first baseman came over and made a lunging dive at the ball at second…he missed…when he got up, I asked him where the second baseman was…straight-faced, he said, “in the water closet.”…I said, “the whaaa?” and then I remembered that’s what they call the bathrooms in Europe…so we waited.

In that same inning, the shortstop called timeout…I thought maybe he was hurt…Diane came out of the Scotland dugout, looked at the kid, walked up to
the plate umpire (Russ) and spoke to him…Russ called the Bulgaria coach out of the dugout…seems the SHORTSTOP had to use the water closet, too – not after the inning, but right NOW!…so we now have a new rule, courtesy of the Scots…it’s the special pinch-shortstop rule…everyone agreed that it was ok for Scotland, which had no legal subs left to make in that position in the lineup, to have someone come out and play the position for a minute or two…you gotta love it.

Even when we WERE playing baseball, it was slow motion…walk after walk after error after passed ball after walk…three hours worth…the final score was 18-0 and it could have been worse.

When it was finally over, Russ and I walked back toward the dorms with the Scotland coaches (Diane and Carol Loudon – they have 3 girls on the team, too)…Russ and I told them, “ladies, keep
your chins up,” to which Diane responded, “I just KNOW we’re a better team than we showed tonight.”

On Tuesday, the Scottish get to play Netherlands, which beat Slovenia 14-0 today and is one of the tournament favorites…I just hope that the Dutch coaches, who have been known to run up the score whenever they can, show some mercy…what you DON’T want to have happen is what almost happened to Ireland last year…the Ireland club was hammered mercifully in their first few
games and wanted to leave the tournament, but stayed around after some urging and ended up really enjoying the “friendship” games – non-championship games at the end of the tournament between teams that have already been
eliminated from winning the title.

Because, lest someone forget, this L.L. regional, more than any other in the WORLD, is about kids playing baseball and enjoying the experience….truly, only a couple of the 11 teams here – Netherlands, Poland and maybe Lithuania – really have a shot at winning this tournament and advancing to Williamsport.

TUESDAY, 7/27 FROM KUTNO, 8 PM

Notes from the fields (and taverns) of Kutno, Poland, home of the European L.L. baseball center and the site of the European / Middle East / Africa 12-year-old championships:


* What other regional offers so many teams speaking so many different languages? we have French (France), German (Austria), Lithuanian, Russian (Kazakhstan), Dutch (Netherlands), Slovenian, Bulgarian, Polish and
Romanian…the joke amongst the umpires is that no one can understand the Scottish, who are speaking English…fortunately, with lots of American coaches, the language barrier isn’t as wide as it’s been in previous tournaments here.
* Each team is assigned a local high school or college student who speaks the team’s language, Polish and English…the Moldova team has Alice, who is a high school senior from Kutno…she speaks Russian and Polish, and
enough English to get by…Moldova has its own native language, but it’s close enough to
Russian for Alice, who has never had a grade lower than an A+ in any class, to pull it off…Alice told me today that she has a sister who lives in Arizona and another in Massachusetts…her sister in the northeast is married to a 30-year-old Harvard professor who has written two books…I felt stupid talking to her 🙂

* Scotland has a player who the team parents have nicknamed “the human strikeout!”…he rarely swings the bat…in Monday’s 18-0 loss to Bulgaria, the kid came up to pinch-watch in the last inning and hit a screaming foul ball on the first pitch, which earned him a loud ovation…alas, he did strike out.

* Scotland, by the way, lost 18-1 to Netherlands today…the Scots did score, obviously, but it took four consecutive walks to do it.


* We have four unbeatens after two days of pool play: Netherlands, Austria and France are 2-0, and Poland is 1-0….as an aside, I am 1-1 in the
umpire hearts competition.

* I had my first plate today – France 13, Bulgaria 2…it was a 5-2 game to the 5th inning…I cannot express the feeling of working a plate in this
stadium – when you step in behind the catcher for that first pitch, you’re walking a little taller…Russ had second base in my plate game and kept giving me the fists-together, as if to say, “we’re having a great time, aren’t we?” same as I did last night when I had second and he had the plate for Scotland-Bulgaria…I know I speak for Russ when I say that we are just loving the heck out of this experience…I only wish I’d started coming here a few years earlier.

* UMPIRE NOTE: four-man crew, less than two outs, runners at 1st and 2nd, ball hit to right-center…Russ goes out, so 3rd base umpire
swings in for 2nd and I come up to take 3rd (that’s the mechanic we are using)…of course, 1st base umpire is supposed to slide down and cover the
plate…ball comes in from the outfield and I see the relay is going to go to the plate…I turn and no one is there (I think I muttered something to the extent of “oh shit!” to myself)…so I turn, take one big step toward the plate and bang the runner out at the plate on what was a very close play…I look to first and there is the first base umpire still standing there, with these huge eyes and his hand over his mouth…he knew he’d made a mistake, so no need to say anything to him…we all have brain farts.

* It’s going to get harder and harder to be accepted into this tournament in the future…there are more and more European umpires who are becoming good enough to work here, and two of them (Bobby Gumbs from Netherlands and Piotr Lapaj from Poland) will work World Series in the states this year…Bobby is going to Williamsport and Piotr to Taylor, Mich., for the juniors.

* Ever since Russ has been coming to Kutno, it’s been the umpires’ favorite outside project to support the local orphanage with donations of money, clothing, incidentals, etc., and to bring the kids up to the center to watch games…this past off-season, I contacted the North Coast Section (NCS), which governs most all the high school athletics from Fremont north to Pinole and from the bay east to Livermore and Brentwood…the NCS allowed me to purchase 100 sweatshirts and 100 t-shirts for $100, and District 57 umpire Robin Van  Galder from Livermore, who works for FedEx, shipped everything to the orphanage at no cost…Monday night at the opening ceremonies, some of the orphanage kids and the orphanage director were on hand, and unbeknownst to
any of us, made presentations (called “smiles”) to four umpires (Bobby Gumbs from the Netherlands, Sam Griffith from Mission Viejo, CA, Gary Rivkin
from Bristol, CT, and me) of a long-stemmed rose, a craft project and a plaque for our efforts in supporting the orphanage…very moving ceremony, and to see the kids WEARING their NCS shirts was pretty damned neat…Robin, I shared the moment with you.

* There has been a group of coaches from a new L.L. in Poland walking around the center the last couple of days…today, I met Wolf Werner, a Philadelphia native who is the president of this new league that just received its charter…but that’s ALL they have – a charter, and a bunch of
kids that want to play baseball…after discussing the situation with Russ and Beata Kaszuba, the European regional center’s director and former all-America swimmer at Arizona State, I presented
Wolf with five SETS of jerseys today to help get his league started…these are from the cache of jerseys that Dublin Little League gave me to bring
over to give to needy teams…DLL, there’s a new league in Poland that will be wearing some of those jerseys – I shared that moment with YOU!

* Unemployment in Poland is about 20 percent…in Kutno, it’s near 30…lots of people walking the downtown cobblestone street in the evening,
but not many spending money…the restaurant that the umpires frequent, Jana’s, does about 50 percent of its annual income during the 6 WEEKS that these tournaments are held…glad to see, though, that the only internet cafe for miles is still open, although at the rate of 50 cents an hour
(USD), it’s hard to see how…as I sit here, there are 15 computers in the room and only four are in use…there were about eight folks here a few
minutes ago, but the other umpires left to go to Jana’s
!

WEDNESDAY, 7/28 FROM KUTNO, 9 PM

Notes, notes, quotes and anecdotes from today’s action at the European / Middle East / Africa Little League baseball championships in Kutno, Poland:

* Things are looking up for Scotland…just left the stadium, where the Scots exploded for 10 runs in a 12-10 loss to Slovenia…a 4-run rally by the Scots in the final inning made it interesting, but even when the 3rd out was in the books, the Scots had the look of a winner…no doubt the shots will be a flowin’ at Jana’s.

* By the way, The Human Strikeout was 0-for-1 (strikeout, of course), although he did reach base for the first time this season on a 4th inning
hit-by-pitch…he was quickly erased on a force play.

* On Thursday, the Scottish play France, which fell from the unbeatens today in a 19-9 scorefest against Netherlands (3-0)…Austria and Poland
are also unbeaten at 2-0…Thursday night in the stadium, I will have the plate for Poland and Kazakhstan…could be the largest crowd of the week because the local club is doing well and playing under the lights.

* The highlight of the Scotland-France game Thursday (this is inside information, known only to about 10 of us in Kutno and, of course, all of
you) will actually come before the first pitch…the Scots and the rather sizeable Austrian contingent have joined together to support each other’s teams this week, and
Ken MacDonald, one of the Austrian coaches, plays the bagpipes, although he told me tonight that he hasn’t picked them up in a year…he asked a parent who arrived just tonight from Austria to drive his pipes here to Kutno, and he will be “piping” the Scots into the stadium tomorrow…hope he plays better than his beloved Red Sox.

*  Over the next couple of days, some teams here will be unveiling new uniforms…I had four sets of uniform tops left from the original cache
that Dublin Little League donated, and after discussion with umpires and tournament staff, we decided to give them to Slovenia (Blue Jays),
Lithuania (Cubs), Romania (Braves) and Moldova (Athletics)…all four of these teams have been wearing t-shirts, not jersey tops, so they were
logical candidates…the Moldova coaches – three 20-something electrical engineers who do not speak one lick of English – fought back tears when they realized they could KEEP THEM…a little something had been lost in the translation…can’t wait to take pictures with those teams in their new digs.

* Pin-trading is HUGE here…now, card-trading is, too…the Scillitani family from DLL donated about 10,000 baseball/football/hockey cards and
today, I doled them out to all the coaches, who divied them up amongst their players…by tonight, card-trading was everywhere in the stadium…can’t
believe a Bill Doran could go even-up for Bill Romanowski, but beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

* I brought a dozen new baseballs with me, again thanks to DLL…today, I gave the Moldovans half of them…some of you will remember my email last
year about the Lithuanians taking infield with what looked like a rock…actually, it was a baseball that was so weathered, it was black…well, that’s what the balls looked like that the Moldovans were
using today.

* Last week, I told you about the financial plight of the Romanians at the Big League tournament in Germany and how everyone rushed to their
aid…well, this tournament, the Moldovans are in trouble…I first got wind of it when Alice told me that she had been spending her 15 zolate (about $4 USD) daily credit at the snack bar to buy food for the Moldovan players…”I do not have any money,” she told me, “but Moldova is a very poor country, and these players have even less than me”…Russ Ruslender, Sam Griffith and I pooled together what we had in our pockets and gave it to her so that she could buy food for HERSELF…since she spends every waking hour with the team each day during the tournament, she knows better
than anyone what is going on…she said that the coaches have not been doing the team’s laundry because of the cost, and that when the kids order
meals, the coaches tell them that they can’t eat
as much as they might like…well, we’re not going to let this escalate…tonight at Jana’s, I will make a pitch to the umpires (there are 12 of us) and we’ll  make sure the Moldovans have whatever they need…another example of why this particular regional is different than most every other in the world.

THURSDAY, 7/29 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 8 PM

Today’s news, notes and anecdotes from the European / Middle East / Africa Little League baseball championships at the European LL headquarters in Kutno.

* Despite not having picked up his bagpipes in over a year, Ken MacDonald, the coach from Austria who works for U.S. Homeland Security out of Vienna, pulled off “Scotland the Brave” in marvelous fashion today…just as the plate meeting broke, he marched up the stairs and into the stands and you could hear the pipes humming even before you could see him…the Scottish team started going bananas, jumping up and down and screaming and looking around to see where the noise was coming from…and then they saw MacDonald, who stood at the top of the stairs and finished the 90-second song, after which he bellowed, “Go Scotland!” with a fist thrust in the air…he came down to the side of the Scottish dugout and had his picture taken with the Scottish team and coaching staff…then it was gametime, which was NOT good news for the Scots.

* France beat Scotland 16-0…the Scots couldn’t do much right, and blamed the temperatures for some of their shortcomings…”we’re not used to this bloody heat – we like it better when it’s cold and kind of misty,” said their manager, Diane Harley.

* Human Strikeout Update: 0-1 (strikeout, looking)…i high-fived him after the game and told him to hang in there…his response: “hang in WHERE?”…like i said a couple of days ago, the Scottish speak English, but the REST of us English-speakers don’t communicate very well with them sometimes.

* Gregory Fages, the French manager, told us last night that he was going to throw his most accurate pitcher today so that the Scottish kids
could hit the ball…you gotta love his intentions, but the Scots weren’t up to the task, watching or whiffing at just about everything the kid threw…by the way, the French kids gave the Scottish kids silver medallions during the post-game handshake and the Scots gave the French a teddy bear wearing a Scottish baseball shirt…both teams have given gifts to every team this week.

* I absolutely love the European custom – MOST teams over here do it, anyway – of a pitcher going to the first baseline to shake a batter’s hand after he has hit him…how do we get THAT
into the green book???

* That European handshake thing happened five – count ’em, five – times in my game tonight as Poland beat Kazakhstan 11-1…Netherlands is 4-0 after their 13-8 win over Moldova today and Poland is 3-0…Austria fell from the unbeaten ranks to Lithuania, 10-9 in seven innings…the Austrians scored four in the top of the 7th, only to see Lithuania rally for five, all with two outs…Austria,
Lithuania, Bulgaria and France have all lost just once…pool play ends Friday and then the top three teams from each pool move on and the rest
start playing friendship games.

* Moldova update – a huge thank-you to those of you who emailed me and committed funds to the Moldovans…today, the Austrian parents gave the
Moldovans six pizzas and a bag of chocolate bars…the Moldovan kids love chocolate (what kid doesn’t?) but the coaches have told them that they have to spend their limited funds on healthy, filling foods…word is that the Romanian team is short on funds now, too (same league that sent a team to the Big League tournament in Germany last week)…we’re on top of it!

* A couple of you have asked me to find out what actual leagues these teams are from, because you thought Windmills L.L., from where the Netherlands Big League team was from, was such a cool name…so here goes: Kvint L.L.
(Moldova), Glasgow L.L. (Scotland), Kutno L.L. (Poland), Ile de France, Utrecht L.L. (Netherlands), Botosani L.L. (Romania), Almaty L.L. (Kazakhstan), Ljobljane L.L. (Slovenia), Bulgaria American, Austria International Baseball Club, and Vilnius L.L. (Lithuania).

* Tonight is the first round of the umpires’ hearts tournament – I love to play cards, as many of you know, but odds are apparently against me – I’m
25-1 on the morning line.

FRIDAY, 7/30 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 10 PM

Today’s news, notes and anecdotes from the European / Middle East / Africa Little League baseball championships in Kutno, Poland.

* Poland beat Austria 17-1 and Netherlands handled Bulgaria 12-1 today, and
both finished pool play unbeaten, earning byes into Sunday’s semifinals…Austria, Bulgaria, France and Lithuania face off tomorrow to
determine the semifinal opponents.

* If indeed it’s a Poland-Netherlands finale, the Little League staff here will be rooting for the Kunto team, for a number of reasons: they’re local kids who use the L.L. center regularly, kids from Poland don’t get anywhere near the opportunities that those from Netherlands get, and Netherlands has already won three of the previous four European  championships contested over the
past month.

* Of the 25 pool play games contested this week, 18 of them (72 percent) were decided by 10 runs or more…not one of the five bottom-feeders
(Scotland, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Romania) beat any of the six teams that are moving on…this tournament has a clear-cut upper class (Poland, Netherlands and Lithuania), middle class (Austria, Bulgaria and France) and lower class.

* Scotland lost to Moldova 16-1 today…cute moment at the pre-game meeting: Scotland presented the Moldovans with a brand new bat…the Moldovans only have two, including what must be the first aluminum bat ever manufactured,
so they were darned happy to have it…the first batter up for Moldova hit the first pitch for a home run  to dead center, leading Scotland manager
Diane Harley to crack, “Maybe we should have waited until AFTER the game.”

* Human Strikeout Update: 0-1 (strikeout, swinging)…he looked at two
absolutely piped pitches for strikes 1 and 2, and with the Scottish fans screaming at him to swing, made a lame attempt at a ball two feet over his
head….he is 0-for-the-season, all of them strikeouts.

* Before today’s game, I looked out and saw the Scotland manager in catcher’s headgear (with throat protector) and glove, fielding balls during pre-game infield…Diane is an absolute sweetheart, and can “pound ’em” better than most guys I know, and some aspects of the rules just aren’t important to the Scots as yet, but I couldn’t let her continue to catch, not with players sitting in the dugout…so I grabbed my camera, ran onto the field and snapped her picture, and then informed her that she had to let one of the kids do the catching.

* Romania unveiled its new uniforms today…the Romanians wore the Braves uniforms that Dublin Little League donated…and for a minute, you had to wonder – the first Romanian hitter singled and the second homered…alas, the Braves went down in flames to Khazakstan 14-4.

* Steve Taylor from St. Louis won the umpires’ hearts tournament last night…the 20 zolate ($5 USD) buy-in was a benefit for the local orphanage that the umpires assist…I played up to my 25-1 odds, going out early.

* The umpires and Little League staff beat the coaches and managers in the annual softball game 7-6 tonight, using special rules to manufacture a game-winning 6-run homer…I played two innings in the field and MIGHT have
caught the French coach’s homer if I’d had any shoes on….Ken MacDonald from Austria gave me the business for not going after it and attaining hero status, but I’d rather umpire the next four days than be remembered as the guy who stole a home run and ended up with a broken collarbone by falling over the outfield fence…I did not get an AB, electing instead to start heading downtown to write this email (there was no mandatory play
requirements in the softball game)…by the way, the umpires/staff team has never lost the softball game against the managers/coaches.

* Best items at the snack bar, with prices converted to USD: “tost” (grilled ham and cheese sandwich), 75 cents; Magnum bars (like Dove bars), $1.


* I’ve got third base for one of the quarterfinals on Saturday, and we’ll learn the semifinal and final game assignments at the umpires’ recognition dinner tomorrow night…I absolutely do not care what assignments that I get for the final few games, because I was honored to do the plate for the European championship game last year, and again for the Big League championships in Germany last week…lots of good umpires here, and everyone is due a chance.

SATURDAY, 7/31 FROM KUTNO, POLAND

Today’s news, notes and anecdotes from the European / Middle East / Africa Little League championships in Kutno, Poland:

* The reason you didn’t get this mail at the normal time is because I didn’t get a chance to write it until now (Sunday morning)…the reason I didn’t get a chance to write it until now was because Kutno suffered a major power outage last night while the entire European L.L. community was at Jana’s – the umpires had just finished their recognition dinner, many parents and teams were eating
dinner downstairs, and the annual disco party involving most of the teams (not to mention every 12-year-old Polish girl within 25 miles) was going
strong…suddenly, total darkness…over the years here, every time there is a power outage of some sort, Gary Rivkin, our umpire from Bristol, CT,
gets blamed for it…and rightly so, apparently…so when the power went out last night, all the L.L. staff and umpires started chanting “Gary, Gary,
Gary.”…no apparent justification for blaming him for THIS outage, but he WAS in the vicinity.

* Austria outlasted France 8-5 and Lithuania outscored Bulgaria 14-7 to advance into Sunday’s semifinals of the tournament against the two
unbeatens…Austria – coached by two Americans, Dennis Foote from Superior,
CO, and Ken MacDonald from Quincy, MA – will play Poland, to whom they lost 17-1 on Friday…the first matchup of the week involving Lithuania and
Netherlands follows…the championship game – and berth to Williamsport – is Monday night.

* Umpire assignments for the semifinals and finals were announced at the umpire’s dinner…the first-ever woman umpire here, Ginger Bats from
France, got the plate for the championship game…she was truly one of the best umpires this week…happy to say i’ll be at first…the semifinal
plates went to Henry Garnett from District 32 in San Diego, who worked the West Regionals in San Bernardino last year, and to Sam Griffith from
District 55 in Mission Viejo…I’ll be working second base on Sam’s semifinal crew…Rene Kolb, a 22-year-old from Germany who has a great
future in umpiring, will have the plate for the consolation game Monday.

* Scotland Update: Romania beat up on the Scots in a friendship game…Because of foul weather in Glasgow, Scotland played only eight games all season to get to this tournament…the match against Moldova today was their sixth game in six days, and that’s a bunch when you don’t have much pitching to begin with.

* Human Strikeout Update: DNP, fatigue…dead serious!!!…he could only muster up enough energy to eat three ice cream bars in the four-inning
exhibition…when asked after the game how he was doing, he responded, “I’m bloody spent!”

* Best umpire call of the tournament came from the Romania-Scotland exhibition…Steve Taylor from St. Louis had a bang-bang play at second
base, paused, paused, paused, took a coin out of his pocket, flipped it and called an OUT!…both teams loved it – quite funny.

* Moldova broke out their new Dublin Little League uniforms, but the Athletics lost to Kazakhstan in the other friendship game.

* The Austrian parents and coaches took the Moldovans to dinner the other night…Scotland took Bulgaria – another team struggling with funds (the kids have been eating bread with liver paste) – to dinner tonight…for those of you who have emailed me financial commitments for the Moldovans and Romanians, it appears they have enough money to get through the tournament…what they DON’T have is very much equipment…so it’s not too late if you want to help, but what we are going to do is to
wait until off-season sales in the fall and drop-ship equipment to the leagues that need it…everyone seems to agree that’s the way to handle it.

* Small World Dept.: Remember Sarunas Marciulionis, the Lithuanian guard
that the Warriors brought over to the U.S. during the Don Nelson days?…I was the Warriors beat writer for the Oakland Tribune at the time, and when I noticed that the Lithuania team was from Vilnius, which I knew to be Sarunas’ hometown, I asked Lithuanian manager Virmidas Neverauskas if he knew him…he did…he told me that Sarunas is the Minister of Sports and Recreation in Lithuania now, that he communicates with Sarunas regularly,  and that, in fact, Sarunas’ nephew, a 13-year-old, played in Kutno last week during the Juniors tournament.

SUNDAY, 8/1 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 6 PM

News, notes and anecdotes from Sunday’s action in the European / Middle East / Africa Little League championships in Kutno, Poland:

* That’s Why They Play The Games Dept.: Everyone around the L.L. center
this week has been talking about a Poland-Netherlands championship game on
Monday night….I guess the Lithuanians weren’t listening…Lithuania beat
the Netherlands 3-2 tonight in the finest “meaningful” game in the history
of these championships…Lithuania matched
Netherlands with single runs in the first two innings, pushed across the game-winner in the bottom of the fifth, and then stranded two runners in
the sixth to leave the Dutch stunned and in tears, almost to a man…so it will be Lithuania against Poland, a 24-4 winner over Austria, in the championship game, and one of these teams will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Williamsport…There was a predominantly pro-Lithuania crowd tonight, but it’ll all change tomorrow when the kids from Kutno take center
stage.

* Virmidas Neverauskas, the Lithuania manager, has been a busy guy the last month…he is the president of Vilnius L.L. and three weeks ago, he drove the Lithuanian girls softball team 10 hours down to Kutno for their European tournament…then he took them home and brought back the juniors team…then he took THEM home and brought back the majors…he was the manager of last year’s Lithuanian team at these championships, too, and some of you might remember the story about me walking up to their first game and thinking that they were taking infield with a rock, only to find out upon closer inspection that it was a very, very old, discolored ball…last year’s team had no hats, no belts, no team socks, played in tennis shoes and wore mismatched sweatpants to go with a t-shirt…they were the first team that sent the message to me that these championships are a whole lot more than just about baseball…this year’s team is slightly better outfitted, but not by a whole lot…so they were one of the four teams that i designated from this tournament to give Dublin Little League uniforms to…they now own the uniforms previously work by the DLL Junior Cubs, although they haven’t debuted them as yet…doubt they will in the title game, either.

* No matter who represents this region in Williamsport, it’s a tough, tough road…Russia dominated this tourney last year and won just one game at the LLWS, beating Guam 2-0…neither Poland nor Lithuania appear to be in Russia’s class…the Netherlands Big League team
that won the European championship last week started play in the World Series in South Carolina on Saturday and lost their opener, 15-0…as good
as these teams look against each other, it’s a whole new world at the next level.

* Slovenia debuted the DLL Blue Jays uniforms today in their rematch with Scotland and were soundly thumped by the Scots, 17-9, in a friendship game…earlier in the week, Slovenia beat Scotland 12-10, but the Scots
felt they had an advantage today because the three 10-year-olds that they brought, who were not allowed to play in the championships, WERE allowed to play in friendship games…one pitched and one caught and the Scots prevailed, leading someone to call it “One of Greatest Days in Scottish Baseball History.”

* Human Strikeout Update: DNP, fatigue, 2nd straight day (no ice cream)…since the Scots are done playing friendship games, he ends the
season perfect (all strikeouts).

* Each morning this past week, the umpires have watched from their quarters as the Scottish coaches hang their laundry – towels, mostly – outside THEIR quarters across the courtyard…last night, we were giving them a hard time about it…this morning, before any of us awoke, the Scots had hung a sign from their clothesline: HELLO UMPS.

* Two Californians, Henry Garnett and Sam Griffith, called great games today in the semifinals…I know Ginger Bats will call a good one in the finals based on everything I saw from her this week…a couple of you asked me if I was disappointed not to get a plate for one of the final three games, and the answer is “absolutely not.”…there are 11 other umpires here, and less than half have done a plate for a regional semifinal or final…I’m fortunate enough to have done two final plates in Europe, and whether I ever get to do another one doesn’t mattert…I had second base for Sam’s effort tonight, and he was absolutely great in the 75-minute Lithuania win…I’ll have first base for the final, and I can’t wait!

MONDAY, 8/2 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 9 PM

News, notes and anecdotes from today’s action at the European / Middle East / Africa Little League Baseball Championships in Kutno, Poland:

* Poland 7, Lithuania 0…a championship game that was much closer than the score…felt like a 3-0 game…great, pro-Kutno crowd…best team won, no question…Kutno is going to Williamsport and the
smiles on the kids’ and coaches’ faces told it all…we had a steady, rather annoying rain for the final four innings, but the last thing anyone
wanted was a postponement, so we played on…in the 5th inning, the first base bag was so covered in mud that I called for someone to bring me a roll of paper towels, and I cleaned it off…Ginger Bats, the plate umpire, asked me if I’d come down and clean the plate, too…as I was jogging toward
the plate, the roll fell out of my hands and unrolled about 20 FEET worth of paper towels…I couldn’t catch up to it…a light moment for everyone…on the way back to first base, Austrian coach Ken MacDonald yelled from the stands, “Hey Blue, do you do windows?”

* Earlier in the evening, Netherlands beat Austria in the third place game, 11-2.

* Earlier in the DAY, there was a friendship game between France and Moldova that had no umpire…like I’d done last year, I said I’d do the
game in my shorts and t-shirt (Lithuania Baseball t-shirt, no less) from behind the mound…as they were getting ready to start, I saw the
Netherlands team having breakfast and asked the coach if he had 3 umpire volunteers for me, and he sent some of his kids over…gave them a crash
course in Umpiring 101 and we worked the game…at one point in the second inning, there was a play at first base that should have been ruled safe, but the umpire called the runner out…the Moldova coach kind of stared at
me…so I called an umpire conference…said to the 3rd base ump, “Waddya got?”…he said safe…said to the 2nd base ump, “Waddya got?”…he said
safe…I told the first base ump, “well, all the rest of us think safe, so when we break up our conference, go say, “Coach, I made a mistake – the runner is safe.”…he handled it perfectly…those three kids – Michel Tijdink, Justin Van Haren and Dylan Raaff – will have a new respect for umpires after that experience.

* Transatlantic teams and umpires started rolling in today for their championships that start Thursday…Saudi Arabia, last year’s champ, was the first team to arrive…Jim Goodwin from Bristol, TN, was the first umpire to arrive, joining about a half dozen from our crew who are staying on for another 10 days…you can read Jim’s daily diary on the Transatlantic tournament at www.tennesseeumpire.com … also competing for a berth in Williamsport are Germany, Netherlands, England, Spain, Italy and Belgium…Transatlantic teams are made up of at least 51 percent Americans kids whose parents work abroad…Among the other umpires for the Transatlantic are Bill Carter from Rocklin, who arrives on Wednesday, and Russ Ruslender from Danville, who has been here for 5 weeks already.

* Romania left early this morning because the team lost its passports and had to get to Warsaw to have the Romanian Consulate replace them…many of the rest of the teams leave Tuesday…as for the umpires, many of whom leave Wednesday, we have a farewell breakfast and a visit to the orphanage scheduled on Tuesday.

* Good Will Dept.: Tonight, umpires are taking the Moldova team to pizza…Netherlands bought enough groceries for Moldova and Lithuania for their long journeys home, and provided pizza to the Lithuanians in their dugout after the championship game…the Netherlands manager also gave me
50 euros to give to whatever team I felt needed it most – I gave it to Slovenia…many folks here
thought the Dutch were rather unfriendly and a bit too competitive, and they were, until the last
couple of days…nice to see them come around.

* Sign hanging from the Scotland team’s clothesline when we woke up today: 
WE WON 1, in reference to their friendship victory over Slovenia on Sunday.


 

TUESDAY, 8/3 FROM KUTNO, POLAND, 6 PM

News, notes and anecdotes from Kutno, Poland, site of the European / Middle East / Africa Little League championships:

* Spoke to Poland coach Andrzej Pietrzak today as he was preparing documents with the Little League staff here for his team’s mid-August trip
to Williamsport…he told me that none of his kids have ever been to the U.S. and that none of the parents will be able to go “because they have no
money.”…even if we raised some cash, it would be logistically difficult to pull off what we’re all thinking we’d LIKE to do, but here’s my thought: if each of you who have been reading my diary the last 2 1/2 weeks could come up with as little as $10 USD, we could put at least $50 in each kid’s
pocket for souvenirs and things at the LLWS…it costs about $25 for a souvenir shirt that will say “LLWS Europe” on the front and “Kutno, Poland”
down the left sleeve, and that’s something that everyone here thinks each kid would LOVE to have…if you’re willing to cmmit funds to this, just let
me know and I’ll handle it through the Kutno L.L. office.

* The umpires visited the local orphanage today…orphanages are not cheery places, and this is no different, despite the new paint job and spruced up facade…the umpires began to support this orphanage years ago when local kids with no home, no family or no money were seen and caught stealing equipment and personal belongings from underneath the stands at the
ballpark…the umpires decided to do something about it and got the local orphanage director to come out to the center and take the kids in…since
then, umpires have donated everything from money to clothing to personal accessories to a wading pool…some of the teams who play here have gotten in the spirit, too…today, we took Tommy Bumstead, manager for the Saudi
Arabia team that is preparing for the Transatlantic Championships, to visit the orphanage…the Saudis have been raising money since being introduced to the orphanage last year…the kids raised over $6K USD, which is about twice as much as the average Kutnoan makes in a year…the money will go a LOOOONG way.

* Ship My Belongings to Kutno Dept.: the umpires took the Moldova team out to dinner Monday night before the team’s long drive home Tuesday
morning…9 large pizzas and 30 bottles of soda…figure out what that would set you back in your neck of the woods, and then see below.


* Early Deadlines or Just Plain Lazy Dept.: the reporter for the Lodz (pronounced Wooj) Daily reported in its Monday paper that Kutno, Poland was playing Netherlands in the championship game on Monday night…would have
been a good guess, i suppose, but that’s why they play the games, right? Netherlands was beaten by Lithuania in the semifinals Sunday evening….the
same reporter was then chased out of the Poland dugout DURING the championship game Monday night as she attempted to interview players while
the game was still on.

* Most everyone was leaving the L.L. center today, but two teams stayed behind and got in one last friendship game…France and Netherlands battled intermittent rain and finally got started four hours after they had planned…Henry Garnett from San
Diego umpired…when I walked out to see how the game was going, I saw three kids (local kids, about 12 years old) umpiring the bases…they
looked a little lost…I asked Henry if he minded if I came out onto the field and worked with them…by the time a couple of innings passed, the kids were performing much more confidently and the few fans that were there were applauding them…big smiles from the kids every time they did something they knew was right…three MORE kids who now have a new respect for umpires.

* Ship My Belongings to Kutno Dept. Answer: it cost $60 USD for 9 large pizzas and 30 bottles of soda in Kutno.

* Leaving the center at 3:30 am Wednesday for the 2-hour dirve to Warsaw and the flight home through Frankfurt…thanks for being such avid readers and great supporters of L.L. baseball.

I’m OUT!!!

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