SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. • Homework and the Little League World Series don’t sound like a fun combination. The Chandler National players aren’t thrilled with it either, but they agree it beats sitting in school.
The team was deactivated from its classes, which started three weeks ago, meaning they don’t have to make up missed assignments. But they are spending an hour each day doing some required reading and journal writing on their experiences playing baseball and meeting other kids from around the world.
Second baseman Edgar Galiz doesn’t know any Japanese, but he’s already learned two words from the Tokyo players. “Konnichiwa” means hello, and “aishiteru” means I love you.
“I told them I ate breakfast, they told me two words, and then I took a nap,” said Galiz, who will enter the eighth grade after the Series.
Entries in most journals haven’t been very educational, unless it counts that Kyle Pechloff discovered teammates Luke Parrish and Matt Haggerty are pretty good at the pingpong tables and arcade games in the players’ dorm.
Pechloff hopes to add another fun entry tonight after playing Salisbury, Md., in Chandler’s first pool play game. The game is scheduled for noon (Arizona time) at Lamade Stadium.
Pechloff, who did not allow an earned run in two wins at the West regional, will be Chandler’s starting pitcher today.
“Just have to throw strikes and trust my defense,” Pechloff said. “I think I’ve got a pretty good team behind me.”
Salisbury advanced out of the Mid-Atlantic regional by beating Council Rock, Pa., in the championship game. It went 1-3 in pool play before beating unbeaten Endwell, N.Y., in the semifinals.
Chandler had a more impressive road, going 4-0 in pool play before beating Waipahu, Hawaii, and Solana Beach, Calif., for the West championship.
Skyler Palermo hit two home runs in the title game and also earned the win on the mound. He is scheduled to get the start in Chandler’s second game Sunday against Southwest region champion Lubbock, Texas.
This is Chandler National’s second Series appearance, as it fell to eventual U.S. champion Boynton Beach, Fla., in the quarterfinals in 2003. Last year, it lost to eventual Series qualifier Ahwatukee Foothills in district play.
Despite the success, coach Jeff Parrish was careful to warn against getting used to a trip to Lamade Stadium.
“What, you’ve got 7,000 teams trying to do this,” Parrish said. “And we’ve got to get through our district and those powers, and states, and then our region’s pretty tough.”
And just as Ahwatukee enjoyed good support at the Series and back home, Parrish said his players are getting similar treatment.
“Only thing is, we haven’t been home at all, we came here right from regionals, so I don’t think they’re aware of it,” Parrish said. “Later on, more attention, and then when they get home maybe it will hit them.”
Several players returned from last year’s team. Some have also played on club and travel teams together during the year.
“The competition here is probably harder,” Palermo said. ”The pitches are faster and the bases are closer, so it’s tougher to play the infield.”
One disadvantage may be weather acclimation. Salisbury players are used to humid Eastern summers. “We’re used to the heat, but not this,” Palermo said.
Chandler players wore layers to chilly early-morning practices, but coaches called off one afternoon session because of high humidity.
Little League World Series
Where: South Williamsport, Pa.
When: Friday-Aug. 26
Chandler National’s schedule: Noon today vs. Salisbury, Md., ESPN; 9 a.m. Sunday vs. Lubbock, Texas, ESPN2; 5 p.m. Tuesday vs. Coon Rapids, Minn., 5 p.m., ESPN2