Credit: Courtesy photo
McAllister Park players help the Little League mascot fire up the crowd before one of their games at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
Wednesday, Aug 22 at 2:31 PM
One of the top priorities for McAllister Park coach Jack Wideman since the team set foot in South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series has been to keep his players from getting distracted by the glare of the spotlight.
Given the big stage these 12 and 13-year-olds are playing on --- the TV cameras, big crowds and autograph seekers --- that's easier said than done.
But Wideman is confident his players have found their groove, striking a good balance between focusing on baseball when it's time to play or practice and simply having fun on a road trip they'll remember for the rest of their lives.
"It's a special deal to be up here with the top 16 teams in the world," Wideman said. "That's quite an honor and it's a great feeling. But we don't want to get caught up in all the hype. We don't talk to our kids about the big game. We just want to let them be boys on the field and play the game the right way.
"We don't want to play it up so big, so we won't get too tight. We want our kids to stay relaxed. One of the worst things you can do as a coach is to get the kids tight. You try to keep them loose by talking about other things, like girls or something else they smile about."
McAllister Park, representing the Southwest Region, plays the Southeast Region champion at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
McAllister Park, 17-1 in the playoffs, and the Southeast team, from Goodlettsville, Tenn., are both 2-0 in the LLWS.
McAllister Park hangs its cap on defense
The winner advances to the U.S. championship game, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The loser plays the West-New England winner in an elimination game Thursday night, with the survivor earning a berth in the U.S. title game.
Sixteen teams, eight U.S. and eight international squads, started the tournament.
The LLWS is broadcast by ESPN3.
"They say this is their biggest event every year," Wideman said. "It's unbelievable the interest that people have in the Little League World Series."
McAllister Park opened this year's tournament with a 5-2 victory over Mid-Atlantic (N.J.) on Friday and rolled past Great Lakes (Ind.) 13-3 on Sunday.
"We've tried to keep it simple," Wideman said. "We just keep our focus on our game plan. We play defense, we hit the ball and we pressure you, and we throw strikes. We don't care about who we're playing. We just have to play our game. We really stress defense. Our defense really defines our team."
Wideman: 'Baseball is baseball'
Although the stakes are higher and the crowds are bigger at the LLWS, Wideman constantly reminds his players that it's still a game.
"Baseball is baseball," he said. "When you cross that line, you respect the game. That's something we preach to the kids all the time. You want to be a player, not a bad guy out there. That's very important to us."
This is the second trip in four years to the LLWS for McAllister Park, located in northeast San Antonio. The MPLL All-Stars made history in 2009 when they became the first team from the city to play in the LLWS.
McAllister Park went 3-0 in pool play before losing to eventual champion Chula, Vista, Calif., representing the West Region, in the U.S. championship game.
Mexico edged the San Antonians 5-4 in the third-place game.
"I don't think the kids on this team realize what they've done as much as we adults do," Wideman said. "They understand it's special, but they probably won't fully get it until they get back to San Antonio."