By Charles Hallman
For the third consecutive year, the MSR was the only local media at both the 2013 RBI Baseball and Softball World Series. As a result, we had unencumbered access to the players, coaches and officials to provide virtually exclusive coverage.
“It’s disappointing that more media hasn’t jumped on board to cover this event,” bemoaned Minnesota Twins RBI Coordinator Frank White. “The players are a lot more talented than what people are giving them credit for.”
The eighth is greatest
Atlanta entered this year’s softball world series with seven titles, the most of any RBI team. Their eighth came last week, thanks to Manager Richard Lee’s effective managing of his shorthanded club.
Lee told me that his plan, of which he constantly reminded his players, was to get to the “lightening round” — last Tuesday’s inter-league playoffs. They went into the round with only 10 players, the smallest of all eight rosters, because two players were unable to come.
“To be honest, the game plan was [that] we had to be last to take on the top seed team,” explained Lee as he held the Dolly Vardes championship trophy, named for an all-Black female softball team in Philadelphia in 1867. “I told the girls that we could make history — we could be the first team ever to be a low seed and come back and win it.”
Atlanta played .500 ball, losing their first four games and then winning their last four, defeating both unbeaten Santo Domingo and then Houston in the finals.
LaKaylin Lee, Lee’s daughter, was the team’s only pitcher, but she didn’t pitch until Tuesday and won Atlanta’s three most important games: two elimination games and the title game. “She pitched great,” noted her father. “I think she pitched 21 innings without a walk. That’s unreal.”
“I’ve won seven tournaments before, but this is the best one I’d ever won,” declared the Atlanta manager.
Except for catcher Nichole Lyday, Atlanta was an all-Black team. Except for two Blacks, Houston was an all-Latina squad.
Major League Baseball Community Affairs Vice President Thomas Brasuell pointed out, “We are probably not that far away that maybe we will get an all-Native American team, [because] there are some Native American teams in the junior program.”
Thanks to the Twins, etc.
Brasuell, who has been at all 20 RBI World Series events, told the MSR, “Each one had something different to offer. But in terms of overall running the event, from staff support, the facilities and everything, [the Twins organization] have been the best.”
“Part of the unsung people are all of the volunteers that helped, and some of the guys like Bill Oliver, who was over [at Dunning] making sure water and Gatorade is there,” added White on thrice hosting the event. “It’s been a good run for everybody involved here in the Twin Cities.”
RBI best moments
Loudest cheering fans: Atlanta, led by Danika Stevens’ mom.
Best consistent smile: Atlanta’s Tia Bolden.
Best catch: Kayla Cato of Atlanta, who stretched high and caught a screaming liner at first base in last Wednesday’s title game. She was named MVP.
Strangest scene: Two interpreters were needed as Santo Domingo coaches [the team didn’t speak English] argued with the umpires on whether or not an Atlanta player touched the plate in their eventual loss to the eventual champions.
“The cheering from the teams, the coaches and the staff, and a lot of enthusiastic parents — I think overall it was a great event,” surmised Brasuell.
Seemingly the RBI folk also appreciated that at least one local newspaper was there from start to finish. “We are going to miss you,” said Atlanta’s Richard Lee to the MSR.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.