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I got the surprise of my life when people were complaining about a DR editorial. You mean the BYH column is not the...

Spotlight only increases in Williamsport

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Players wave their North State flag at Elm Street Park on Aug. 10, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Greenville North State will play at least three games at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., and with that comes ESPN coverage to the fullest extent.

It will probably come up during the national television broadcasts that infielder Carson Hardee nicknamed his glove “Caroline” years ago, and that Matthew Matthijs is a towering figure at 6-foot-1 and 149 pounds. Drew Fields is a smooth left-handed outfielder and the son of head coach Brian Fields, who played college and professional baseball.

Ashton Byars is a 5-foot, 121-pounder who has lion-like hair that flows out of his hat that makes him one of the team’s most recognizable players. He’s not a fan of hair cuts.

“And my mom is hair stylist,” Byars said.

The ESPN announcers know this kind of information because of their preparation that includes thorough meetings and interviews with the players and coaches. They were extensive at the Southeast Regional last week, and work is already being done this week as all 16 World Series teams are in Williamsport for the event that is covered unlike any other in youth sports.

“These guys are hit with it hard in Williamsport, so we will have to focus on that but really when we get back on the field it’s time to just focus on playing baseball,” Brian Fields said.

A parade in Williamsport is scheduled for today. North State’s first game is Friday night against the U.S. Midwest champion from Sioux Falls, S.D.

The event receives this kind of attention in part because it truly is a World Series tournament with an international presence. There are eight American teams and eight international, and Day 1 action Thursday includes Venezuela versus Mexico and Canada against Italy.

In addition to announcers telling all kinds of stories about the players during game broadcasts, North State making it this far also gives Greenville national and potentially international exposure. During the Southeast Regional, a hot topic on TV was how Greenville Little Leagues played a role in helping North State player Cash Daniels-Moye and others during Hurricane Matthew relief last fall.

Commercials on ESPN have picked up during the last week as the network has hyped its coverage that will hit full swing Thursday.

“It’s kind of amazing,” Matthijs said of the ESPN presence that included televising Greenville’s semifinal and championship victories during regional action last week. “I did like it a lot.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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