Monday, August 28, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 66, Issue 6 

Cougar Comics Online



About the Cougar

Little League baseball captured imagination

Sports Opinion

Audrey Warren

As he threw his glove in the air and fell to his knees, little league pitcher Ruben Mavarez shed tears of joy after striking out the last Bellaire batter and winning the 54th Little League World Series on Saturday for Maracaibo, Venezuela.

The Bellaire little leaguers put up a valiant effort in baseball's smaller championship series over the weekend, but in the end it was the labor of a team that started out with only one baseball bat that took home the crown as champions.

Watching the Bellaire Little League All-Stars edge, win by win, closer to the Little League Championship Game brought about not only a sense of camaraderie among team members, but among Houstonians and residents of the small city the players came from.

But after a 3-2 loss, Bellaire will have to settle for a season filled with district, regional and national championship titles and leave World Champ bragging rights to the Venezuelan boys.

It was a no-lose situation though for television viewers, who had to struggle in choosing to root for either the hometown heroes or the amiable Venezuelan team that spent practices sharing a bat and wearing sole-worn shoes.

Tears from the Venezuelan dugout before the game's finale confirmed the importance the game had for the players, who in comparison to the Bellaire team had traveled a rough road.

The Latin American team hails from a poorer part of Maracaibo and began tournament play with four players lacking spikes. The game garnered Venezuela its second World Series title in six years as Mavarez allowed only four hits, struck out six and also scored for his team.

Bellaire pitcher Alex Atherton threw a two-hitter. But two wild pitches in the first inning, and an error in the third led to all three Maracaibo runs.

With a crowd of 42,000 on its feet, Mavarez ended the game by striking out Hunter Johnson. Maracaibo is the ninth Venezuelan team to reach the Series, and the second to claim the title since 1994.

Houston is, however, preparing a well-deserved hero's welcome for the stouthearted efforts of the hometown boys. Though they came up one run short, there will be a parade through the streets of Bellaire on Wednesday in their honor.

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