When clueless people ask me what I do, which I hate, I often respond, “I’m a shortstop”, ignoring the glaring fact that I haven’t played baseball competitively since I was 20, nearly 40 years ago. But the way I figure it that’s what I have loved the most and what I was best at, so that’s how I see myself, as a ballplayer. The rest of the stuff has just been a way to make a living.
Every year at this time I’m drawn like a junkie to a fix to tune in the Little League World Series games in a somewhat confusing sad-ecstatic nostalgia daze, lamenting the 8 – 6 loss my team suffered to East Barstow in our 5th game of the World Series tournament which would have wrapped up the Western regionals for my East Baseline San Bernardino team in 1962 (you only had to win 13 to win it all back then). I remember the two home runs I hit that game like it was last week, and the unfamiliar, sick feeling of what loss means when everything up until my age of 12 had been nearly perfect.
For Jesus Sauceda of Matamoros, Mexico, no matter what circumstances brought him to be the starting pitcher for his all-star team yesterday, it will be a day he will never forget. Throwing against an over-matched group of kids from Spain, Jesus had a perfect game, usually described as no-runs, no-hits, no baserunners. Yes, he had that, but he also struck out every batter he faced. 12 up, 12 strikeouts, in a four-inning game reduced in length due to the 10-run mercy rule when Mexico was ahead 12 – 0.
Mexico beat Guam today 10 – 0, vying to become world champs as the Monterrey, Mexico team did in 1957. One thing I know for sure, each of these kids, no matter how their lives unfold, will carry these days and this experience forever, and they will always be ballplayers.