Australian team makes most of time in US
Make it to the Little League Baseball World Series — check.
Meet some Major League Baseball heroes — check.
See a Major League game live — check.
But, before making the 9,468-mile journey back home on Sunday, the Little League team from Gold Coast, Australia, has a few more items to check off its bucket list.
The team will have its second Major League experience today, witnessing the Pittsburgh Pirates take on the Atlanta Braves at home.
Peter Moylan, relief pitcher for the Braves and an Australian native, hooked the team up with the tickets, said Australia’s manager Brent Iddon.
“That should be fun,” Iddon said. “It’s just as big as this tournament.”
Though it’ll be the team’s second Major League game, it’ll be its first time watching from a Major League stadium, he added.
The team is divided almost evenly on whether to root for the Pirates or the Braves. But Beau Hyde, the team’s assistant coach, and his son, Oscar, No. 20, are most looking forward to cheering together for the Pirates.
“We’re ticking a few boxes while we’re over here,” Beau Hyde said.
“They’re not very good, but we go for the underdogs,” Oscar Hyde added with a chuckle.
They’re also working to schedule a scrimmage game later in the week with another team knocked out of the series, Iddon said.
“While we’re here, we might as well keep playing some ball,” he said.
While it’s no longer a new experience for him, Zach Smith, No. 5, said he’s excited to meet more fans, take more pictures and sign more autographs.
“I’m looking forward to hanging with my fans and taking photos,” he said.
Just Monday, he had his photo taken with five girls and got their Instagram handles, he added cheekily.
Many of the players also are looking forward to taking a turn sliding down “the hill” — the large climb behind Lamade Stadium down which kids of all ages ride cardboard sleds throughout the day, rain or shine.
“It’s the hill,” Smith said, emphasizing the word “the.”
They’re also excited to do some shopping in American stores like Walmart, they said.
The players’ favorite moments from their stay here thus far vary from the Grand Slam Parade to hitting a homerun in their first game to meeting the team uncles.
“They’re really nice and fun to hang out with,” Smith said of the uncles.
“I hit a bomb,” Oscar Hyde said of the homerun he made in Australia’s game against Mexico on Friday.
During their time in the Series, the team saw “the best” ball playing, Beau Hyde said. He hopes the team’s standards will rise even higher after the experience.
“They’ll be better players for it,” he said.
After all the blood, sweat and tears put into qualifying, followed by a maddeningly long downtime between the end of the season and the Series (about 65 days, Iddon said), it felt like the hard work was done and it was time to live in the moment, Hyde said.
“I’ve never felt more welcome in my life,” he said of the team’s appearance at the Series. “It’s more a celebration than a tournament. It’s a real rockstar feeling.”