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WOODWARD: These kids are best at being kids

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Bryce Jackson dances during batting practice at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

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BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa.

The Grove is a sacred place to the players of the 16 teams at the Little League World Series.

They allow their coaches inside the dorm-style complex on the World Series grounds, but otherwise it is like the world’s most diverse backyard treehouse and a secret password is non-existent.

No parents. No grandparents. No siblings. No media. Even no girlfriends.

My initial plan of covering a Greenville kid battling a kid from Japan in ping pong was squashed when I found this out about The Grove. I wasn’t thrilled, but now I fully understand that their space is their space and it is great that outsiders are not allowed.

It is evidently such a cool and exclusive place that even during Greenville North State’s historic start to this tournament — it has not allowed a hit in its two victories — hanging out in The Grove was on some players’ minds just minutes after their 16-0 blowout Sunday against Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.

Some instant reaction to Greenville’s big win, on social media and elsewhere, made the players out to be adults whose job is to play consistent baseball.

In The Grove, they are simply children looking to find fun.

“Well I think there’s going to be a lot of swimming and a lot of ping pong and some competitions,” starting pitcher Chase Anderson said Sunday when asked about what the team will do in the buildup to Wednesday’s showdown with Lufkin, Texas.

Good for Anderson for being a kid and answering that way. They are putting as much emphasis on their next at-bat as they are a bellyflop battle in the pool or their next ping pong match against a new friend from maybe Walla Walla, Wash., or Maracaibo, Venezuela.

They are not old enough to understand that this experience is almost guaranteed to be their career sports highlight. They can ponder that later.

Living in the moment the way only they know how is a big part of the beauty of the Little League World Series.

At only age 12 or 13, Anderson and his teammates are riding an emotional high and somehow finding the insight to comprehend what matters most while so many others around them and around Greenville are feeling the pressure for them.

And the pressure keeps building.

North State might be crowned the world champion Sunday. It might get eliminated before the weekend.

Regardless, the players are living out a dream and doing it the right way.

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

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