Australia, Minnesota play at Original League
There were no ESPN cameras or giant video board in the outfield. The crowd of thousands was replaced by a small crowd of less than 100. Dugout wasn’t around to dance with the kids between innings either.
Two Little League World Series participants were playing — the Midwest champions from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, and the Australia champions from Sydney, New South Wales — but it wasn’t at the complex in South Williamsport.
Rather, it was a consolation game being played at the birthplace of Little League Baseball: Original League.
The two teams played Thursday morning at Carl E. Stotz Field to get one more game in before the two teams headed back home to begin the school year. But it gave the kids a rare chance to play on the actual site where the first Little League game was played in 1939.
“This is really good. This is special for the kids. We heard about it yesterday and couple of the coaches, we came down on the second day, we were here looking around and said ‘wow if we have chance to come down here with the kids, we’ll take it.’ It turned out that way, so it’s great,” Australia manager Jason Choat said before the game.
The Europe and Africa region champions from Bologna, Italy, and the Latin America champions from Maracaibo, Venezuela, also played a consolation game at Montoursville’s Little League field yesterday morning.
Prior to the game at Original, soon-to-be 91-year-old Al “Sonney” Yearick threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Yearick played in the inaugural season of Little League Baseball in 1939 with Lycoming Dairy and was a catcher for the team from 1939-41. He is still is involved with Original League. He was seated in the Original League museum Thursday morning signing baseballs and talking with any fan who wanted to talk to him.
“Any time you get picked to do something like that, it’s an honor no matter how small or how big it is,” Yearick said of throwing out the first pitch.
For the players, having the chance to actually play at the birthplace of Little League is a rare honor and one they likely won’t ever forget. Original League was the site of the first 12 Little League World Series from 1947-58 before it moved to South Williamsport.
“It’s great,” Original League umpire-in-chief Bill Fritz said, noting this is the second one they did as Original League didn’t host a consolation game in 2018, but did in 2017. “It’s great for the kids because they can go home and say ‘I played on the Original Field.'”
“This is a bit more relaxed, so I think it’ll be a good finish for the kids,” Choat said.
Ultimately, Thursday’s result in that consolation game didn’t matter. It was simply one last baseball game to play while in Williamsport. You could see the players relaxing and having fun throughout the game.
When there was a crushing home run — Minnesota hit one in the first inning — there wasn’t the enormous roar from crowds at Volunteer or Lamade Stadiums. There was just a few oohs and aahs and clapping you’d expect at a local game.
You could see Australia’s outfielders practicing their home-run robbing jumps at the fence, hoping to snag one away from Minnesota. For the Midwest champions, it was getting players to play different positions. Maddy Freking, a solid second baseman who can also pitch when needed, was suiting up to play catcher.
“Altogether for the kids, it’s a dream come true,” Choat said.