It's Time to Play Ball!

An awesome mixture of talents and cultures came together at the European Little League stadium in Kutno, Poland during the last week of July. After battling it out in the Semi-finals and finals with Germany, Poland and Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia won the European title, and will compete in the LL World Series championship in Williamsport, Pennsylvania in August. But judging from all the roaring in the stands, dancing at the disco and pillow fights in the dorms, all the teams went home feeling like winners."

"The most amazing thing is the international flavor," says coach Jones from the Holland team. The 1998 European LL tournament brought together 12 countries from England to Kazakhstan to play baseball, trade baseball pins and see what different kids from different countries were all about.

Kutno' s Tarantula' s made it to the Semi-finals and put up a good fight against Germany. Still, more towns in Poland could use LL teams. There are many kids out there who would love to swing a bat and feel the rush of hitting a double, driving in the winning run on third, become part of a team and know what it means to work hard, improve and suceed.

"LL rules are designed to get as many kids playing ball that want to," explains Bob Mann, European Regional Director of Little League Baseball. LLB players come from one community, and so with low travel costs more and more European kids can get up to bat. Not only kids get involved, but community leaders, parents and local fans find themselves talking about tag-ups and RBIs." LL Baseball offers an opportunity for kids to develop their skills, recognize leadership qualities and empower parents as community leaders," says Patrick Beesley, LL coach and Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova.

Many parents get involved because they see how baseball can teach their child self-discipline, teamwork, and the healthy spirit of competition that isn' t taught in schools.

Steve Keener, President of Little League International, greets the players of the Kutno tournament last July.

Sofball team from Brzeg wins European Championships 1998 Girls to play in World Series in USA.

History likes to repeat itself, and it did. Two years ago, the Polish girls softball team from Brzeg won the European Championships. Mr. Edward Piszek, the President of Copernicus Foundation in Poland, sponsored their trip to Portland, Oregon. Again this year, the Brzeg softball team won the European Championships and travels to Portland. Oregon, thanks to Mr. Piszek's sponsorship. Congratulations girls!

Damil Isagulov and his teammates from Kazastan told me at the end of the tournament that they were sad they couldn' t come back next year. LL players at the tournament must be between 11-12 years old. In addition to pins, they passed out postcards of Almaty, the city where most of the team comes from. Damil would like to tell people that his country is very beautiful and green, with mountains and rivers; the people are friendly too, just like in Poland. When asked what he would remember most about playing in the European LL tournament, Damil said," the friends I made from the other teams."

Judging from the hugs, kisses, and even tears of people saying their good-byes, I think most participants would agree with Damil.

With Kutno, Poland as the center of European Little League, isn' t time the kids in your town had the opportunity to play ball?

Charlene Caprio, PCV