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At LLWS, Aussies a popular pick

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Australian pitcher Tom Stancic throws to Japan's Natsuki Yajima on Friday in South Williamsport, Pa.

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LLWS Parade Baseball
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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, August 18, 2017

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It is a mistake to assume that everybody at the Little League World Series who is wearing Australian apparel is from the Land Down Under.

The kids from Hills Little League in Sydney are building a decent following at the LLWS despite their long distance from Pennsylvania.

Cheryl Douse is from Wyoming, Michigan, and in her 12th straight year attending the marquee youth sporting event with her family. She picks an underdog every year to follow, and she parlayed her 2016 pick of Australia by doing it again.

“I just like to watch them. They are neat,” Douse said as she walked to her spot behind the left field fence at Volunteer Stadium to watch Australia play perennial favorite Japan. “They don’t have many people (here).”

Japan’s representative from Tokyo beat Australia 8-0 in the first game for both squads.

Interacting with the international players has delivered thrills for the players from North State, the team of Greenville all stars that made it to Williamsport by winning the Southeast Regional Tournament. The team plays its first game tonight against the Midwest representative from Sioux Falls, S.D.

Exchanging T-shirts, team pins and other accessories is an everyday thing, and Greenville pitcher Chase Anderson got an Australian beanie during one of those trades.

“This week has been really exciting and unbelievable,” North State outfielder Cash Daniels-Moye said.

The Australians speak the best English among the international teams. One of their players was born in the United States, but for many this truly is a foreign experience.

“I’ve tried to tell the boys to think baseball first, but as you can see, this is an unbelievable experience for all of them,” Australia coach Chris Swan said. 

The teams from Dominican Republic and Venezuela also have light followings. The Australian color scheme of dark gray and neon green has helped with their popularity at the gift shop, especially with younger fans.

Little League International pays for the travel for all 16 teams — international and U.S. — but that is for players and coaches only, which typically makes it tough on the international families to make the trip.

Australia’s first year as a regional representative at the LLWS was 2013. Hills Little League also represented the region at the World Series last year.

Michael Robinson was wearing a bright green Australia jersey T-shirt during a rain delay early Friday and he does live in Australia, but is not related to any of the players. He was intrigued by the Sydney team making it a year ago and vowed that if it did it again, he would make a vacation to Pennsylvania to “knock it off his bucket list.”

He doesn’t have a hotel nearby. As part of his three-week vacation to the Northeastern United States, Robinson is camping in a tent in Montgomery, Pa., about 15 minutes away from the Little League venue.

Friday’s thunderstorms didn’t mesh well with his lodging situation, but he didn’t seem to mind.

“This is going to test how waterproof that tent really is,” Robinson said with a surprisingly laid-back tone.

Cricket is more popular than baseball in Australia, and both sports trail different forms of football and soccer.

The fact that a team from Sydney, Australia, played against Tokyo in a game held in South Williamsport, Pa., on Friday was a testament to the unique setup of the Little League World Series.

“We came here to play against the best teams in the world, and I think Japan is that,” Swan said.

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

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