Hollidaysburg soaking up atmosphere
The first game
Thursday: Hollidaysburg, Pa. (Mid-Atlantic champ) vs. Pearland, Texas (Southwest champ), 7 p.m.
Site: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, Williamsport, Pa. (Approximately 2 hour drive from Hollidaysburg)
At stake: Winner plays either Massapequa, N.Y., Honolulu, Hawaii or Bonney Lake, Wash. in a winners’ bracket game on Monday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Loser plays either Nolensville, Tenn. or Middleborough, Mass. in a losers’ bracket game on Saturday at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
By Neil Rudel
Major League Baseball teams employ traveling secretaries to handle all the behind-the-scenes arrangements.
Right about now, Jim McGough could use one.
The manager of the Hollidaysburg Little League team said he and his players have been inundated with messages — all positive — since clinching the Mid-Atlantic Regional championship Friday and advancing to Williamsport for the Little League World Series.
“The kids’ phones haven’t stopped ringing,” McGough said Sunday morning from Williamsport, where the team is preparing for opening festivities. “It’s constant — the amount of text messages and phone calls, and not only just the community but people who have moved away. People from California, Minnesota are seeing the kids on ESPN and feeling the pride of being from Hollidaysburg. It’s been awesome.”
From what he’s heard and seen on social media, McGough expects a large crowd Thursday night for Hollidaysburg’s 7 p.m. opener against Texas East (ESPN2). A couple of buses are being organized.
“We’re anticipating that just because we’ve been told by a lot of people that they’re coming,” he said. “People are anxious to see the kids play and have the experience of seeing a team so close from home play in the Little League World Series.”
McGough met with ESPN on Sunday, and the team attended the Williamsport Crosscutters game.
Players have been showered with gear from sponsors such as Adidas and Easton. Adidas is filming a practice for promotional purposes.
“They’re getting brand new uniforms, hats, jackets, a new bat bag, catching gear – head to toe,” McGough said. “Everyone gets a bat that hasn’t been released yet . The kids are soaking it up.”
The teams are housed in dormitories, adding to the experience.
“Our (dorm) neighbor is Japan,” McGough said. “The coolest thing so far is watching the kids interact with the international kids. They’re having so much fun learning different cultures and language — because they do a lot of trading of jerseys.”
Today brings the opening ceremonies and a parade. Ex-big league greats Mariano Rivera and Rickey Henderson will be on hand.
“Everything is regimented by the hour,” McGough said.
Each team gets a set number of VIP game tickets to make sure “we can get as many as possible as close as possible,” McGough said.
While the players are being kept busy, McGough said the parents and families, many of whom were in Bristol, Connecticut for a week, have used the break to come home and recharge and “get the grass cut.”
Families will start returning in the next couple of days.
McGough and fellow coach Brad Hatch are using technology to scout the Texas team.
“All the games are on ESPN so we can go back and watch the games in the different regionals,” he said. “We get on Gamechanger (website) and look at stats plus talk to people, word of mouth. We’ll put the time in to make sure we’re very well prepared.”
McGough wasn’t ready to name a starting pitcher, saying rules allow him to wait until the night before.
“We’ll probably decide in next few days,” he said. “We’ll take a time to do our homework on Southwest (champ from Pearland, Texas) and see their strengths.”