Lee Smith shares lessons, lofts a few zingers toward little leaguers
Although it wasn’t a blistering 95-mile-per-hour fastball, Lee Smith delivered a few zingers over home plate.
The ball was plastic and the bats were, too, as the Latin America Little League team from Maricaibo, Venezuela, and a Loyalsock Township team relaxed together during an off-day for the Little League World Series to play a game of Wiffle ball on the front lawn entrance to Williamsport Regional Medical Center on Friday afternoon.
“I want to give back to the kids and play the game,” Smith said, arriving from Shreveport, Louisiana, and entering the campus with Jason Fink, executive director of the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.
“I want the kids to have some fun and relax,” he said, before switching his shoes to sneakers.
Smith also expressed how much he wanted to visit with Mike Mussina, of Montoursville, his teammate in 1993-94, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, this summer.
The team players were laughing and shaking hands. Teams shared players. Lee took the mound as the boys gathered around him. It was an action-packed game but without any pressure.
It was a chance for patients in rehabilitation and UPMC staff to see the Series players in action, live and up close. Coaches from the teams served as umpires.
Smith started out tossing a few slower pitches at the players, but before long they were zipping in, catching the strike-zone at about their knees, and on the inside and outside corner of home plate.
Smith’s competitive nature surfaced a time or two when a foul tip was missed by one of the adult coaches behind the batter.
“Catch that,” he said, smiling.
It was a blast for the players and spectators, and the weather cooperated, with cooler temperatures from a cold front and an overcast sky keeping the heat and humidity at bay.
Preston Gross, son of Tracy and Jenn Gross, of Loyalsock Township, stopped for a second from playing on first base to describe what it was like to hit and play on a team with the Latin American representatives and a Hall of Fame pitcher.
“Really fun,” Gross said.
When asked who he wanted to see represent the U.S. in the World Series Sunday, he said the U.S. West team from Wailuku, Hawaii.
Besides playing baseball, Gross added he was a quarterback on his seventh and eighth grade school football teams.
He said he enjoys exploring the Little League complex, and Lamade and Volunteer stadiums throughout the Series.
As the official sports medicine provider of the Little League World Series, UPMC Susquehanna has held the fun pick-up game for the past six years, according to staff.
Smith said he cheered on the U.S. Southwest team from River Ridge, Louisiana.
Following the game, Smith and Team Latin America visited with more hospital patients inside.