SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — When it comes to the Little League World Series, there’s nothing small time about the “swag.”
The 14 ballplayers of Sammamish’s Eastlake Little League team, who play their first game of the Series today against a team from Corpus Christi, Texas (noon PDT, ESPN), were loaded up on arrival with new bats, bags, T-shirts and armbands. And that’s not counting the all-star treatment they’ve received.
The Eastlake team, like all of their competitors, rode on their own float in Wednesday night’s parade that drew an estimated 20,000 people to downtown Williamsport.
“This is a mecca of Little League baseball,” manager Rob Chandler said. “It’s the equivalent of Augusta National for baseball for 12 and 13-year-olds.”
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Since winning their state tournament, the Eastlakers have become pros at handling the media.
“It’s been fun to see how they’ve matured at being interviewed, from when we came back from states and the local paper and TV station showed up,” Coach Jamie Matsuoka said.
The players and their families might need some help to cover travel costs – as of Wednesday night, nearly $30,000 of the $45,000 goal to had been raised at gofundme.com/Eastlake12u – but since arriving at the Northwest Regional tournament, the Eastlake players have spent as much time with ESPN as anyone not named LeBron James.
On Wednesday, players Will Armbruester and Jack Carper learned firsthand the amount of time that goes into filming those short bits the network plays to open a game or go to commercial break. Armbruester and Carper, along with two players from every other team, spent nearly an hour running back and forth and throwing their hats in the air as a camera on a 20-foot robotic boom captured take after take.
“Keep smiling, keep smiling,” the director called out on a megaphone, repeatedly. “3-2-1, heads up. 3-2-1, heads down.”
After the shoot was finished, Armbruester’s family – father Mike, mother Liz, and brother Justin – met him, with hands full of Northwest region T-shirts, hats, and other gear.
“We’ve got all kinds of swag for friends and family here. We’re going to box these up and send them home so they can wear them when watching the games,” Liz said.
Justin was a member of the 2011 Eastlake team that placed third in state, its highest previous finish in 11- and 12-year-old play.
“I always wanted to come to the World Series,” he said. “I didn’t think it would happen like this.”