* This 5-year-old stadium finally saw an over-the-fence home run Tuesday when Hamza of the Czech Republic golfed a hanging breaking ball from Ladera Ranch’s Dillon Diaz some 365 feet over right-center field fence. Approximately 210 games had been played here without an over-the-fence home run.
* Host Sporto Vilkai (Vilnius) has the only 2 girls in the tournament (Monika and Laura), but the Czech Republic’s Mic Kovar has the longest hair – and a beard. And 3 kids, for all we know.
* Speaking of Kovar, he was part of a small controversy during Tuesday’s game against Ladera Ranch. One of this tournament’s rules is that you must bat every player on your team, although only nine play in the field. That rule was lost on the Czechs, apparently, because they had no intention of batting their 10-11-12 until we saw their leadoff hitter come up again after #9. When we informed the Czech manager what he had to do, he responded, “These 3 players are not hitters – they are pitchers,” to which I responded, “Coach, they are players, so they must bat.”
As it turned out, those 3 “pitchers” finished the game 1-for-2 with 2 walks, 4 times hit by pitch (Kovar was hit 3 times) and an on-base percentage of .875 in the Czechs’ 11-7 win.
“We couldn’t get those guys out,” said Ladera manager Joel Hunter. “That was the difference.”
* Utena shortstop/catcher/pitcher Yusef Sadaunykas, son of Eel Man (you know who that is if you’ve been following this blog over the years) just returned from a 2-month baseball camp in Peoria, IL, that he called “the toughest thing I have ever had to do in baseball.” The kid runs like a deer and is a wonderful catcher, but dislikes the position in favor of shortstop or pitcher.
* Standings after 2 days of pool play: Czech Republic 2-0, Ladera Ranch, CA 2-1, Utena 2-1, Belarus 1-2, Vilnius 0-3. After Thursday’s action, the 5th place team (Vilnius) will be eliminated and the other four will advance to Friday’s semifinals.
* Considering they have no real equipment here, the field prep done by Utena coach Tomas Kviklys and Utena umpire Rimvydas Vaitkus is fabulous. They literally sweep the ground brick dust infield smooth after each game, chalk the lines and work the mound and plate areas with bottled water and push brooms. It’s not as archaic as it used to be here, but you’d never see anybody in the states doing it this way.
* New enhancements to the tournament this year: a digital-looking scoreboard that you can read from 200 yards away, sponsorship banners on the outfield fence, portable toilets, a garbage dumpster and cleaning personnel who sweep the grandstands and remove debris each day.
Now, you might say to yourself: portable toilets and a garbage dumpster are a big deal? And the answer is yes – especially when you didn’t have them before now.
* When this field was constructed, organizers had 20 tons of red clay (the same material used at most claycourt tennis facilities) trucked in from Latvia. Over the years, it got packed down pretty far, so in advance of the European Seniors championships 5 weeks ago, they had another 20 tons brought in and had it machine-compacted.
The result? With the wild winds we had Tuesday, some portions of games were played in an orange duststorm.
The answer? Tournament organizers ordered a water truck Wednesday morning and they put down 5,000 liters of water and re-worked the infield.
* The brains behind all the logistics for this tournament is Raimundas Kalanta, a Lithuanian trucking mogul who leaves no stone unturned when it comes to tourney organization and details. This guy really knows how to throw a party. He would normally have the logistics support of Virmidas Neverauskas, the national baseball coach, but Virmidas is in Bangor, ME, with the European champion Lithuanian seniors team.
* Watching the Olympics in Russian is disconcerting. Even the Lithuanians think so.
* What was Edmuntas Matusevicius thinking when he named his kids Edgaras, Edvardas and Edis? Edmuntas is a sweetheart of a guy who works for Lithuanian Ministry of Sport and has umpired in this tournament in previous years, but he’s off to Beijing Thursday to scope out China’s various stadiums. Alas we do have his eldest son, 22-year-old Edgaras, who is one of Lithuania’s shining stars, having just recently worked the European Juniors Championships in Poland.
* I am on a losing streak at Lithuanian restaurants. Wednesday I ordered ribs right off the menu and was told they didn’t have any. Two nights earlier, the same thing happened when I ordered a Greek salad. And the night before that, I ordered fish and was told “sorry, they’re all dead.” I felt like the aflac duck with Yogi speaking.
* One of the dads traveling with the California team, Jay Buckey, is the Umpire In Chief for Ladera Ranch Little League. He wasn’t part of the original umpire rotation for the tournament, but we slid him onto the plate for Utena-Vilnius Wednesday and he had a blast, as anyone would umpiring a game in which you can’t understand a word being said by either team.