Canada’s team at the Little League World Series wasn’t worried about a rain-cancelled game halting their momentum.
That’s because head coach Mike Marino doesn’t consider the Canadians’ dramatic run at the tournament as anything out of the ordinary for his team.
“We don’t think we were just riding a hot streak, we’re going to keep going,” Marino said in a phone interview from Williamsport, Pa., on Tuesday after Canada’s elimination game against Puerto Rico was postponed until Wednesday.
“We’re a resilient team and stuff doesn’t faze us too much. This group of boys, when something’s thrown at them they just deal with it and move on. It’s pretty cool to see.”
The Canadian champions — the Whalley Major Allstars from Surrey, B.C. — are coming off thrilling victories over Mexico and Spain in must-win games after opening the tournament with a loss to Panama.
Canada beat Spain 2-1 in 10 innings on a walk-off single on Saturday before holding on to knock off Mexico 6-4 on Monday, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the ninth.
“Our confidence level is pretty high right now. We think we can play with anyone here,” Marino said. “We still have some pitchers coming up that we can throw, and our bats are coming around. … So we’re ready to go.”
Puerto Rico (2-1) also lost its tournament opener before reeling off two straight wins to stay alive.
The winner of the Puerto Rico-Canada game will advance to the international semifinal to face the loser of a Japan-South Korea contest.
Rain delay? No problem. #LLWS pic.twitter.com/KSXjJ9LZvV
— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 21, 2018
Canada has appeared in every Little League World Series since 1952 (the tournament began in 1947), when a team from Montreal made the quarterfinals. A Stoney Creek, Ont., squad had Canada’s best result when it finished second in 1965, and two Canadian teams finished third — one from Trail, B.C., in 1990 and one from Langley, B.C., in 1998.
But Marino said his players aren’t really thinking beyond their next game.
“They just like playing,” he said. “They don’t really look at the big picture of it all like: ‘OK, this could be the furthest a Canadian team has gone in a long time.’ They’re not thinking about that. They just want to play baseball.”
It’s been a busy week for the Canadians, who also watched MLB’s Little League Classic between the Mets and Phillies on Monday afternoon, an experience Marino called “unbelievable” after some Philadelphia players gave the kids their bats and batting gloves.
They also got a selfie with former Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, now a member of the Mets.
“He obviously played in Toronto a long time and I think he had a soft spot for us,” Marino said. “He talked to us briefly, just ‘hey, how’s it going,’ and ‘keep up the good work,’ stuff like that.”
READ MORE: Whalley wins another nail-biter, stays alive in #LLWS
The Whalley team’s resilience has also captured the attention of the baseball community in B.C.
Nathan Parade de la Feraude, an assistant coach with the Whalley Chiefs senior team, said everyone on his men’s squad has been talking about the Canadian Little Leaguers.
“We play gritty, tough out, hustle baseball,” he said of the Whalley mentality. “It’s no surprise we’ve been able to climb back into games and steal some victories.”
Parade de la Feraude played on the Whalley team that made it to the Little League World Series in 2005 and called it “one of the best summers of my life.”
He figures registration for Whalley baseball will get a boost because of the Little League success.
David Laing, executive director for Baseball B.C., thinks that could be true for the province as a whole, too.
“I think every time our sport gets publicity, whether it be the Blue Jays being successful or the (Vancouver) Canadians having another playoff run at Nat Bailey (Stadium in Vancouver), or our little leaguers from Whalley running around and taking on the world, it generates good interest, and any time we get good interest, we get more and more people wanting to try our game,” he said.
Laing said the Canadian team came into the event with the right attitude.
“I don’t think anyone within the group had really crazy expectations,” he said. “I think they were just going to go and play and see what happened.”
The Canadian Press