BANGOR – Don’t expect East Boynton Beach (Fla.) Senior League outfielder Matt Overton to be nervous playing in the Senior League World Series at Mansfield Stadium this week.
Five years ago, he played in the Little League World Series in Williamsport as his East Boynton Beach team reached the final where it lost to Musashi-Fuchu Little League from Tokyo 10-1.
East Boynton Beach was the American champion and Musashi-Fuchu was the international winner.
“It still seems like yesterday. It’s hard to believe it’s been five years,” said Overton about his memorable experience.
In comparing the two World Series, he said “they’re a lot different.
“In Williamsport, there were a lot more teams. And we had to stay in dorms. Here we stay in a hotel,” said Overton. “You’re more on your own here.”
He noted that the crowds were much larger in Williamsport.
“There were [filled] stands around the whole field and more on the big hill [beyond the fences],” said Overton, who started in left field or right field for the Floridians.
There are 16 teams in the Little League World Series with eight American teams and eight international teams. There are 10 teams in the Senior League World Series including Overton’s U.S. South champions.
One thing they do have in common, he said, is “they’re both fun.”
There is more pressure in Williamsport but he said, “[pressure] doesn’t get to me.”
Lithuanians get new cleats
Vermidas Neverauskas, the manager of the Vilnius, Lithuania team in the Senior League World Series, said his players made a valuable trip to the Bangor Mall this week.
“The boys got cleats. They’re much more expensive in Europe. They’re 70 Euros in Europe which is a minimum of 100 dollars over there,” said Neverauskas. “They got them for about 25 dollars here. That’s perfect.”
He said baseball isn’t very popular in Lithuania.
“Basketball is religion in Lithuania,” said Neverauskas, who said there are approximately 30 baseball teams in Lithuania encompassing all ages.
He said Vilnius has a “much better situation [baseball-wise] than other cities” in his country.
“There aren’t many strong teams,” he said.
He said the sport is slowly gaining in popularity but basketball will always be the major sport.
They have one athletic field on which they play baseball and it’s not a very good one.
“It’s a very big field with a pitcher’s mound,” said Neverauskas.
His team is without two of its best players, a pitcher and a catcher.
“The major leagues invited the best 50 players in Europe to a tryout in Italy. All the major league teams sent scouts there,” said Neverauskas.
He said they started playing baseball in 1987 when the International Olympic Committee decided to add baseball to the Olympic games. However, baseball and softball are being eliminated after this Olympics.
Baseball was a demonstration sport in the 1984 and ’88 Olympics and was officially added in 1992.
Softball became an Olympic sport in 1996.
Grounds crew was impressive
East Boynton Beach (Fla.) coach Jeff Durgan said he and other members of their entourage were impressed by the way the grounds crew battled the rain to get the field ready for play on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It was a good, old New England effort. We were impressed with how hard they worked on it out in the rain, [and everything],” said Durgan. “Our parents know what it’s like because they help out on our fields.”
Durgan, a Meriden, Conn. native, said several of their players play baseball year-round and that gives them a “huge advantage” over the other SLWS teams.
The East Boynton baseball organization has a fall program with teams of all ages.
Leading up to Senior League, he said they have “eight or nine 10-year-old teams, six 11-12-year old teams and a couple of junior (13-year-olds) teams.”
They begin the process of contacting players and their parents in January for the spring and summer Little League season and have opening day in March.
East Boynton Beach, the U.S. South champion, won its first three games at the Senior League World Series, including Wednesday night’s thrilling 10-9 eight-inning win over Bangor, to run its record to 19-0 since they began sectional play in Florida.