Little Known Fact: On my way back from scenic New England yesterday I stopped in Williamsport, PA to catch a little bit of the Little League World Series. I’m a fan of the event, though the expanding coverage is starting to cultivate a group of haters and I can see that viewpoint as well. Part of me would like to go back to when only the final was shown on Wide World of Sports, the US team would get throttled by Chinese Taipei, and everyone moved on. The Little League World Series is a big enterprise now, and in no place was that more evident than the merchandise shop. I’ve seen shorter lines cue up for golf shirts at the Masters. You can outfit yourself with an entire wardrobe of your team’s gear. So, I’m stocking up on flat brims when I see a grown man, who looks vaguely familiar posing in the mirror wearing a complete Clinton County, PA replica uniform. Is that Ben Francisco? I call out:
(Francisco turns, makes eye-contact, a look of dread washes over his face and he starts beating a hasty retreat toward the exit)
ME (chasing after him): Excuse me, Mr. Francisco?
(Ben bangs a quick left out of the door, and I make a right, utilizing the old TV cop trick. When we both turn the next corner, suddenly we’re facing each other.)
ME: Whatcha up to Ben?
BEN: Um, my kid plays for Clinton County.
ME: No he doesn’t.
BEN: You’re right, he doesn’t.
ME: What the f*ck are you doing here? Don’t you have batting practice in a couple hours?
BEN: They don’t notice when I’m gone.
(I think rightfully so, this makes me chuckle)
ME: Point taken. What are you really doing here?
BEN: I’m just trying to get some ABs.
ME: You know this is Little League, right?
BEN: But, they said everyone gets to play at least one inning.
ME: Aw, Ben, that’s almost cute. But, you realize these are kids out there. It might be your skill level, but you’re a grown man. Someone would probably notice.
BEN: I just need a chance. My WAR adjusted to a field with Little League dimensions is 7.8.
ME: That sounds made up.
BEN: It is.
ME: Look Man, you’ll eventually get another chance. What if the game turns into a rout tonight? What if it’s 10-0? Charlie loves pulling guys. He’ll get Mikey Mart in there, G-Load, probably time for Pence to get a quick blow.
BEN: I f*cking hate Pence.
ME: I know, I know, but I’m saying, Charlie might not play him every single inning.
BEN: He will.
(Editor’s Note: This exact scenario played out Monday night. The Phils went up 10-0, and Charlie emptied the bench…except for Francisco.)
ME: Look, things could be worse. What are you hitting .220? That’s robust. Look at Adam Dunn.
BEN: I have 3 hits since the 4th of July.
ME: What? That can’t be…(I take out my phone. Click, click, click). Oh, well, sh*t. That is bad.
BEN: It’s all Mayberry’s fault. Why is he hitting? I don’t understand. And, he’s smart. He speaks f*cking Spanish. I don’t even speak Spanish and my last name is Francisco.
ME: Well, yeah, Mayberry. I mean, he’s got that little something extra over you.
BEN: Look, I gotta go. Batting practice is almost over. Now’s my chance.
(Ben scurries off in the direction of Howard J. Lamade Stadium)
ME: (after he’s safely out of earshot) Good luck?