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Old 08-23-09, 06:04 PM
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McAllister Park a story worthy of cheers

Web Posted: 08/23/2009 12:00 CDT
McAllister Park a story worthy of cheers
Richard Oliver

I know the rule.

As a journalist for more than three decades, toting a notebook and pen into sporting venues from Mexico City to Buffalo to Honolulu, I've heard the warning issued so many times, it's become nothing more than background noise:

There is no cheering allowed in the press box.

Reporting, by definition, is all about objectivity, straddling the fence so hard that we're hitting high notes that Mariah Carey could only imagine.

But as Jacob Ramos' long drive curled inside the right-field pole at South Williamsport, Pa., on Friday night, a three-run blast that effectively nailed down McAllister Park's opening win at the Little League World Series, a crowd at Fatso's Sports Garden erupted in cheers.

And I launched from my seat as if set on fire.

So much for objectivity.

I have my reasons to cast aside journalistic tethers. I know the families of many of the youngsters now representing San Antonio at Lamade Stadium and watched my own son scamper around the bases at McAllister Park not so long ago.

I loosened my restraints a few times in those days, as well, as an umpire or two can attest.

Yet, there are more than personal motives to root for our hometown youngsters.

It's been a tough summer in sports, filled with too many headlines about Michael Vick, Jeremy Mayfield, Memphis basketball and Alex Rodriguez.

Sometimes, between all the sex, steroids and SAT cheating, it's hard to see the games for all the smog of scandal.

Athletics these days has evolved more than ever into tabloid fodder, as we've read as much about Rick Pitino getting busy with a lady friend as we have about the Texas Rangers getting busy in the wild-card chase.

Too often, we're just not sure whether we're watching “SportsCenter” or a Lil' Wayne music video.

Little wonder, then, that a crowd of hundreds sat, spellbound, at a North Side sports bar Friday night to watch any one of several television sets tuned in to the Little League World Series. There, a dozen San Antonio kids played a game with the kind of innocent delight that cleared away such pollution.

Before the game, the 12- and 13-year-olds prepared for the biggest night of their lives by sliding down the grass hill adjacent to the stadium. Not long before the opening pitch, they goofed around on the field.

When the action began, though competing before a worldwide audience, they grinned and danced in the dugout, fist-bumped and high-fived. Back in San Antonio, a roomful of family, friends and McAllister Park teammates followed along, the mood soaring and dipping like a storm-tossed buoy.

When Steve Cardone ripped a three-run double to center in the third inning, providing all the scoring punch the Texans would need, the crowd at Fatso's executed the largest group hug the city had seen since Pope John Paul II stopped by in 1987.

When pitcher Travis Daves shut down Massachusetts' rallies, fists were pumped in the air. And when Ramos turned on an inside pitch, cranking it toward a distant foul pole in the fourth, the gathering came to its feet and leaned in unison to the left, willing the ball to stay fair.

It did, and the party began in earnest. As a veteran journalist, I can attest to it.

I was standing up at the time. Cheering.

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McAllister Park a story worthy of cheers
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