Jeff Chapman LL diary Day 3

August 1, 2006

One of the biggest reasons why so many American umpires are used at this regional is because the region hasn’t developed enough of its own.There are a few outstanding LL umpires in Europe, like Bobby Gumbs from the Netherlands, Ginger Bats from France, Cristean Minea from Romania, Arnoldas Ramanaskas from Lithuania, Rene Kolb from Germany and Piotrek Lapaj from right here in Kutno. I would go to battle with any of these umpires, 4 of whom have worked World Series in the states, anytime, anywhere.

But the list of qualified volunteer umpires doesn’t go much beyond that. One reason is that the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) pays its umpires and is the more established organization. Another is training – clinics are held here, but the numbers are small because of the travel distance. As such, the best training European umpires get is working with Americans.

Lisa Gill has been watching LL baseball in Sophia, Bulgaria since 1993. She and her husband, Scott, are missionaries from Colorado Springs, all 6 of their kids have been born in Europe and Scott even coached the Bulgaria team in these championships in 2004.

“You have no idea what having qualified umpires means to the coaches and the kids,” Lisa said. “Our games in Sophia take 2 and sometimes 3 hours because the umpires don’t manage them – they let the teams dictate the pace, they don’t know the rules, so there are always arguments.”

Two of the 3 games played here Tuesday – 10-run-rule victories by Russia and Netherlands over Georgia and Slovenia – asted 80 minutes or less. Austria’s 11-2 rout of Italy, which was 2-2 into the 5th, went 1:45.

The games flow because breaks are short between innings, rules aren’t often questioned because of the umpires’ qualifications and there are fewer errors when the game has pace and tempo because everyone is on their toes.

“It’s night-and-day different,” said Lisa, who has 2 boys playing on this year’s Bulgaria team. “These games are fun to watch, even the 10-run games. We’ve played baseball in many countries over here and it’s pretty much the same everywhere – everywhere but here, of course.”

LL has to ensure that its regional champions have won their titles playing by exactly the same rules they will have to play by when they get to the World Series in the states.

Of the 13 umpires here, 3 are from Europe, 1 from Canada and 9 from the U.S., 7 of those from California.

PICTURE THIS DEPT.: Little League thought it would be a great idea to tape the MLB All-Star Game off Armed Forces Network and show it for all the Transatlantic teams one evening last week. So Jana’s restaurant was packed with kids, coaches and parents that particular evening and everything was going swell – until the game ended. The person who made the tape had failed to realize that AFN followed the all-star game by cutting immediately to Asian women pole-dancing. “Things got real quiet,” said one of Jana’s waitresses, who added, “and things got even more interesting when no one could figure how to turn off the projector for a few minutes.”

NOTES: Vygaudas Usackas, who just completed his term as the Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S., emailed to say that he will be attending the Lithuanuan Friendship Tournament in Utena next week that teams from Dublin and Irvine will be playing in. Usackas, a big sports fan who I met at a dinner in Lafayette 4 months ago, is from Utena and will be starting his new job as Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.K. In London on Sept. 1…Virmidas Neverauskas, the Lithuanian national baseball coach who started the Utena tournament last year, has asked Sam Griffith and I to share Tournament Director and Umpire in Chief duties next week “so that I can concentrate on coaching.” It’s an honor we are happy to accept…As best we know it, Austria’s Joseph Hurt had the longest trip to get to Kutno. He was in the Philippines with his family on vacation just a few days ago. But after a series of flights totaling 18 hours, he got back to Vienna, from where he joined his team for the 9-hour train ride…At tonight’s opening ceremonies, Bill Piszek, son of the man who made a sizeable donation to get this LL center up and running in 1995, gave each of the 13 teams here a brand new set of major league logo uniforms…Lithuania wore Trabuco Canyon LL jerseys during opening ceremonies and will wear them throughout the tournament. TCLL is in CA District 68 (Sam’s district)and the donation was made here during the 2005 event.

I’M OUT!!!

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Jeff Chapman Day 2

August 1, 2006

The American influence on Little League baseball in Europe has been well-documented. If Europeans had ANYthing to do with introducing soccer in the U.S., then it’s at least equally true that Americans are responsible for the growth of baseball in Europe.It’s manifested itself in many forms, including a near-record 13 teams being on site for the opening of the EMEA (Europe Middle East Africa) championships in
Kutno, Poland on Tuesday.
Relatively speaking, baseball is still a very young sport in Europe. There were so few teams playing Little League baseball here until just 5 years ago that LL did not have to have a separate category for its mostly European teams. It simply sent its Transatlantic champion to the LLWS – in other words, it sent the┬ákids whose parents are among the 55,000 Americans working in Saudi Arabia. Saudi has gone to Williamsport 9 straight years.But in 2001, LL gave Europe a second bid to Williamsport, ruling that the Transatlantic champion must have predominantly an American makeup, while the European champion must be made up predominantly by native kids from that particular country. And Russia has dominated the latter class, winning every year except 2004, when it was sitting out a one-year probation. Host Poland won that year.So Russia is the odds-on favorite to repeat as European champion, even though it will have to go through more opponents than last year to get there. This year’s hopefuls include Russia, Germany, Netherlands, Belarus, Moldova,Ukraine, Georgia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy, Austria and the host team from Kutno.Through U.S. military stationed in Europe like all the American umpires who come here every year, embassy workers like Tom Kelly (CA) in Lithuania, other government employees like Ken MacDonald (MA) in Austria, and missionaries like Scott Gill (CO) in Bulgaria, the game has spread far and wide through a region where soccer is still king.As of 2005, LL boasted 113 leagues in 50 countries totaling about 9,400 participants. Now, with the announcement that the Confederation of European baseball (CEB) has agreed to begin affiliating with LL
in 2007, those numbers have increased exponentially. CEB has been the default baseball program in Europe for decades, but after two years of negotiations with LL, primarily with European LL Regional Director Beata Kaszuba, it decided to take advantage of LL’s global reach and get in touch with American baseball and not just the game of baseball itself. It’s a huge step, and one which LL recognizes might be the most significant yet.

NOTES: When the Moldova juniors team was here in Kutno a few weeks ago, they wore the White Sox jerseys that Dublin LL donated to them last year. The Moldova 12-year-old team will wear Padres uniforms donated by Pleasanton LL…Bulgaria drove 25 hours in a van with no air conditioning from Sophia to get here: Italy drove 24 hours to et to Kutno from Venice…I was remiss in failing to acknowledge 2 other CA umpires who are here: Dave Diaz from Riverside and Larry McEwen from Moorpark. That makes 7 of the 13 umpires for this tourney from CA…play gets under way at 10 am local time Tuesday – I have the plate for Netherlands-Slovenia at 1:30 with Perry Tucker, Vic Langford and Larry McEwen.

I’M OUT!!!