WILLIAMSPORT, PA – The 2022 Little League World Series officially kicked off on Wednesday with Opening Ceremonies and the first games of the tournament.
Among the 20 teams competing from around the world this year is Pearland Little League, representing the Southwest Region. The team’s first game is Thursday at 6 p.m. Central Time.
Pearland will face the Mid-Atlantic Region Champions, a team from Hollidaysburg, Pa.
Coach Aaron Cummings told KPRC 2 he’s been told to expect a large crowd, possibly up to 10,000 people.
“The reality is many of these kids, this will be the biggest crowd they ever play in – could be Thursday night,” Cummings said. “We’re going to tell them, ‘Look, it’s just the same white lines, the same dimensions, it’s just a baseball field. Go out there and try to focus on the game and not get caught staring into the crowd.’”
The players are prepared for the moment.
“None of us are really that nervous, all of us are very comforting if you are nervous, so all of us are pretty good at staying calm when we’re in a high-stress moment,” said Manny Castillo, who plays outfield. “We have to stay sharp, can’t make a lot of errors. We just have to play our best as we can.”
The team has been in Williamsport, Pa, since Friday, keeping a busy schedule with practice and team activities. Players didn’t re-connect with their families until Tuesday night.
“I think they seem like they had gotten a little more mature, too, which has been a cool experience for them having to be away from moms and dads,” said John Kahn, parent of pitcher Corey Kahn. “It’s amazing to hear about the stories from their friendships that have formed with kids from other teams.”
The encouragement from Houston and beyond is helping the team propel forward.
“The support that we’ve received from our community, not just Pearland but Houston, has just been really amazing,” said Maria Castillo, another parent of a player. “I’m proud of all of the boys. They just work really hard and they just have a good time.”
Opening Ceremonies featured each team, including 10 from the U.S. and 10 from other countries.
During the ceremony, Little League Board of Directors Chairman Hugh Tanner called for a moment of silence for the Uvalde school shooting victims, at least six of whom were registered to play Little League this season.
Earlier in the week, a parade was held through the town of Williamsport. Cummings estimated about 40,000 people attended.
“Every time I think something can’t be any crazier, it just keeps getting better,” Cummings said.
Catcher Ford Hill is ready to start playing.
“It’s just been really kind of, not fun to not be able to play baseball for almost a week,” he said.
Each player from the 20 teams, including Hill, participated in the ceremonial first pitch.
“I know for the kids, they feel like they’re the heroes of Houston right now and they want to do their best,” Kahn said.
If the team wins Thursday, the next game is scheduled for Monday. If they lose, another game is set for Saturday.
KPRC 2′s Bryce Newberry will provide live updates throughout the series as Houston cheers for their very own.
See photos of the ceremony below:
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