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‘It’s like Disneyland for baseball’: The Cronulla kids heading to the states for the Little League World Series

“Baseball works almost the exact opposite of every other sport, so their career peaks at 12 years of age,” he said.

“We’re talking a multi-multi-multi-multimillion-dollar operation here. They pay for all the flights, accommodation and it’s all structured, so they have to leave altogether as a team travel together as a team – they stay in an athletes’ village in the US.

Parents Belinda and Chris Vella with Little League player, son Lachlan.

Parents Belinda and Chris Vella with Little League player, son Lachlan.Credit:Edwina Pickles

“They get all brand new kits, new bats, new gloves, and it’s all monogrammed – it’s full-on and it’s huge.”

This year is the second time the club has made it to the Little League World Series, with Cronulla also qualifying in 2015. Last week, the coaches of that year’s squad came to debrief the boys and parents.

“They just said you’ve got no idea until you go, it’s immense,” Mr Vella said. “The kids can’t even walk down the street” without being mobbed and asked for autographs.

Like many mothers of sporting children, Belinda Vella signed up at the start of the year to be a manager to the side. Now collecting waivers to make sure the boys are equipped to travel internationally alone, she is trying to gather exactly what she’s walked into.

Head coach Jason Choat with son Ewan.

Head coach Jason Choat with son Ewan.Credit:Edwina Pickles

“I accepted the role thinking that it was just going to take us to nationals,” Ms Vella said. “I mean we had no expectations  … the boys were really relaxed and cruisy going into [the Lismore game], it was just another game of baseball for them.”

The Little League Series garners full ESPN coverage, with an annual viewership of more than 50 million. Last year’s overall attendance was over 315,000. “It’s like Disneyland for baseball,” Ms Vella said.

It’s the travel factor that is the most exciting part for the kids playing. The venue, South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, is a town “entirely built around” Little League.

Year 6 player Damien Wilson is eager to make a lasting impression.

“I’m just hoping that I could get that opportunity to go play in the MLB [Major League Baseball], as there will be scouts there,” Damien said. “It’s like going to the Olympics for baseball.”

Year 6 Little League player Damien Wilson would love to play in the Major Baseball League.

Year 6 Little League player Damien Wilson would love to play in the Major Baseball League.Credit:Edwina Pickles

The coach’s son, Ewan Choat, is the team’s shortstop and has been playing baseball since the age of four. “It’s just my passion,” Ewan said.

Coach Choat is ready to ramp up the team’s training level over the next six weeks. Australia will be playing against the Carribean region on August 15, which is day one of the competition.

“The standard is going to be a lot higher, but these guys aren’t intimidated by that,” Choat said. “We’ve got the equipment here to challenge them at high speeds, so that’s what we’re doing.”

The side of 14 will also be competing against some older teams to prepare to compete against taller players.

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