• August 23, 2021

Small crowds, a lot of noise at the Little League World Series

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) – Hunter Nepple’s three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning had Nebraska’s cheering section scream and kick at Lamade Stadium.

Hawaii’s 3-0 lead had evaporated with one swing, but its fans were eager to respond once pitcher Micah Bennett pulled the Honolulu team out of the inning. The Nebraska and Hawaii stadium sections took turns shouting cheers from the hometown, an impromptu competition over who can be louder in a game that ended as an 11-3 victory for Hawaii in seven innings on Sunday.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Little League World Series games have only had a few hundred family and friends in the stands this year. Turns out they were the ones who made a lot of noise in the first place.

“Even with the smaller crowds, it really hasn’t diminished our experience at all,” said Stan Budarz, father of Jacob Budarz from the Connecticut team. “You can generate a lot of power and the way the acoustics are in the stands, I think it sounds pretty strong even though it’s not the biggest crowd.”

The reduced capacity crowds allowed in the Volunteer and Lamade stadiums have created an intimate experience for everyone involved.

Scott Stier was there to support the Florida team as his 13-year-old son left the little league, but he is still best friends with one of the players. Stier believes that the more relaxed atmosphere could help some of the more shy participants.

“It’s a tough burden for them to carry,” Stier said. “I think it turned out to be maybe a blessing in disguise if they were feeling a little uncomfortable.”

While these 12-year-olds still appear on nationally televised ESPN broadcasts, they do so in a more familiar and close environment. Stier noted how the early days of LLWS have been reminiscent of his hometown Little League games.

Hawaii manager Brandon Sardinha noted how capacity restrictions also applied during the Hawaii State Tournament and West Regional in San Bernardino, California.

“If there were a lot more fans, it could be a distraction,” Sardinha said. “Throughout this process, from our state tournament to the regionals, it’s been somewhat limited, so that’s what they’re used to. I think they are comfortable with what it is now. “

However, for a long time Little League World Series fan Erin Smith from nearby Hughesville definitely noticed a drop in energy at the ballpark this year. He got a section pass since his father volunteers at stadiums.

Not to mention, embarrassing moments – like a dad complaining when his son strikes out or throws a ball – are now much easier for everyone to hear.

Nebraska manager Dustin Rader, whose Hastings Little League team is only the second Cornhusker State team to make the world series, said he and his players “know no different” than competing with little more than family and friends. on hand.

And for Rader, the experience of being in South Williamsport instead of enduring another season without Little League baseball like in 2020 is more than enough to get excited.

“I don’t know if playing in front of the world or playing in front of 30,000 in person is very different. Everything is a new experience, ”he said. “You get what you get and you don’t make an attack. This is how we have lived this entire journey. It would have been nice to see those crowded stands, but man, it’s so much better than last year. “

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