Thursday Sep 01 2011
To be Nick Pratto
By: Jim Linsdau Herald/News Messenger Sports Editor
For those who saw the championship game of the Little League World Series between California’s Huntington Beach and Japan’s Hamamatsu City it was a thriller that went down to the wire. An apparently fearless 12-year-old from Huntington Beach named Nick Pratto stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the 6th inning with two outs, the bases loaded, and the game tied 1-1. Swinging from the left side of the plate he stroked a Texas leaguer into right field to bring home pinch runner Eric Anderson and a walk-off victory. Anderson replaced Braydon Salzman, who pitched the full six innings giving up only three hits. The run scored by Japan came via an error. It couldn’t have been sweeter as the club’s manager was Nick Pratto’s own father, Jeff Pratto. It was the seventh LLWS win for the USA, and tied Japan for the second most championships won. Taiwan is the leader. The road to South Williamsport, Pa. isn’t an easy one, and a lot of balls have to bounce a team’s way in order to make it, but it’s the dream of any pre-teen. Little League Baseball does a fantastic job of making the journey enjoyable in spite of the growing pressures. Some have suggested it’s too much pressure for someone that age, but players like Nick Pratto would stand as testimony that “pressure” is generally what we put on ourselves. Make no doubt about it, it is a big stage and having the ESPN television cameras broadcasting your every play to millions across the country is no small matter. Still, it is what champions are made of and no better time to start than when you’re not playing for your bread and butter. It’s hard to ignore what was accomplished, especially in this area. With Tri-City’s Juniors All Stars, and Rocklin’s All Stars Seniors team going to Regionals in Southern California, not to mention the district, divisional, and sectional championships enjoyed. There was also Lincoln’s Majors All Stars, who came within a game of advancing to Sections. Had things gone differently, the boys from Zebra Town could well have been on that field with Huntington Beach. Baseball is a great game and the experience unforgettable. As Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s classic poem goes, “Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;” But where there is no joy in Mudville, there is in Huntington Beach … and California, … and the good ol’ U.S. of A.