Nearly everyone seems to enjoy Top 10 lists these days. Anything that generates debate attracts ratings, otherwise ESPN would not spend two hours a day putting a guy who spews nonsense and insults real journalists everywhere as its two-hour debate show's focal point.
Since this is the one time of the year where a worldwide audience converges on South Williamsport, I might as well join the club. Therefore, the following is Chris Masse's Top 10 favorite things about the Little League World Series.
10. Wondering what celebrities will stop by: Whether it's former Major Leaguers, actors or politicians, the Series always attracts several people that once seemed to only exist on television. Since starting to cover the Series in 1999, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Vice President Joe Biden have attended. Whatever your political affiliation, that is pretty cool.
9. Reliving past Little League experiences: Granted, the 16 Series teams here likely would have beaten my past teams by 100 runs, but remembering my days playing with the Brandywine Youth Club Lions still brings back fond memories. The wins and losses fade over the years, but the times spent with your friends and the laughter generated never does.
8. The interaction between U.S. and international teams: Often, there is a language barrier separating the teams but little else. Seeing players from around the world, who never knew each other before arriving at the Series, sharing smiles and becoming buddies never gets old.
7. Player interviews: True, sometimes you are lucky to simply get a "yes or no" response out of a 12-year-old but nearly every year you always seem to find that one player who can fill a notebook with either insightful and/or funny comments. Dalton Carriker, the Warner Robins, Ga., hero of the 2007 Series, is my personal favorite. Asked how he felt hitting the walk-off home run against Japan in the world final, Carriker said," I felt like Peter Pan." That's great stuff.
6. Seeing future pros in action: My first year here, Colby Rasmus led Phenix City, Ala., to the world final. Now Rasmus is playing for the Blue Jays. Jurickson Profar led Curacao to the 2004 world championship and now is one of the top prospects in the Texas Rangers farm system. Six years ago, Lake Charles, La., shortstop Gavin Cecchini was a 5-foot-3, 12-year-old competing here. Now he is a New York Mets first-round draft selection. You never know who one day will hit it big and that adds to the Series' enjoyment.
5. The atmosphere: Going back to my days as a reporter for Penn State's Daily Collegian, I have covered a lot of big events, including Nittany Lion football games with more than 100,000 people in attendance. Nothing, though, was more exciting than the buzz generated last August when nearby Keystone Little League played five Series games and generated record crowds. It was like a world championship game atmosphere every night. Going back and thinking about extra-inning world title thrillers won on walk-off homers by Ewa Beach, Hawaii, and Georgia, and having that kind of electricity each time was pretty awesome.
4. Free food: OK, this is complete selfish, but I dare you to find a sports reporter out there who does not love free food. If you want to see something funny, head toward the media center around 5 p.m. each day and watch the reporters milling around trying to pretend that they're busy when in reality they are waiting to attack the incoming buffet.
3. Sportsmanship: The previously-mentioned Carriker walk-off home run in the 2007 world final capped the best game I've ever seen here. What was really special, though, happened immediately after the game. The Georgia and Japan players had become good friends at the Series and when Georgia saw Japan players upset and crying, they stopped celebrating and rushed over to console them. Moments later, they carried the world championship banner around the field together. Take a snap shot right there. That is what Little League Baseball is supposed to be all about.
2. The elimination games: There's something special about watching two great teams going at it with their seasons on the line. Both teams have played for more than two months and the urgency that is evident has produced countless classics over the years. Three of the last seven world title games have been won on walk-off hits and the 2002 and 2003 U.S. semifinals produced some of the best games in Series history. Those who watched Kentucky's Aaron Alvey and Texas' Walker Kelly set numerous pitching records in 2002 likely will never forget it. That drama is tough to beat.
1. The Hill: Honestly, I never understood the thrill of the hill that overlooks Lamade Stadium until my daughter started visiting the past few Series. But once I saw how excited she was sliding down the hill on her cardboard slide or - as she was last year - simply sprinting down it, I became a fan for life. Whether you're a player, coach or parent you should slide down the hill at least once. One of my favorite photographs is of my daughter and me running hand-in-hand down the hill last year. There are no words to describe the look of joy on her face in that photo. Seeing that joy in your child's face simply cannot be topped.