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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES NOTEBOOK : Groundskeepers Can’t Disguise the Drought

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The weather, always a concern at the Little League World Series, is again a hot topic.

People usually complain about the rain and humidity. But this year, the big story is drought.

It hasn’t rained in Central Pennsylvania in 1 1/2 months and temperatures have hovered at 90 degrees throughout August. The result has been parched countryside and a very dry playing field at Lamade Stadium.

Groundskeepers take special precautions to keep the field looking good. They paint the bad spots green for television cameras. But this year, no amount of gardening helps.

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Barren and brown patches on the stadium field are visible. Practice fields are parched.

Yorba Hills Coach Bill Rooney would not let his team take infield drills on a practice field because he said he feared a bad hop on the turf could cause an injury.

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Television has altered the series format. Today, for instance, teams that lost Monday play each other in morning and mid-afternoon games, with the undefeated American teams playing at 5 p.m. (PDT). Previously, the games were set before the series began.

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The switch was made to accommodate ESPN, which will carry tonight’s game between the two unbeaten American teams on ESPN2.

“We’re trying to fine-tune the system,” Little League spokesman Dennis Sullivan said. “This way, the late game is the best game because neither team has lost.”

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Little League has been experimenting with new playing formats for most of the decade in anticipation of doubling the field from eight to 16 teams by 2000. When that occurs, the tournament will probably be expanded to two weeks. A second playing field will be added directly below Lamade Stadium, making it possible to play two games at the same time. Speculation is that Little League will adopt a double-elimination format, similar to the College World Series.

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Local businessman Phil Eisner spent the weekend selling souvenir trading pins--a big item here--under a tent across from Little League headquarters.

The pins range in price from $3 to more than $150 for a Little League set from 50 states and U.S. territories.

Eisner, who has been in business 11 years, estimated that the Yorba Hills pin will fetch between $25 and $35 this week.

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“The teams that come here every year are the hardest to get and they cost the most,” he said.

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The players, in their third week living in Little League compounds, seem to like life in Williamsport.

“The food is a lot better here,” said Yorba Hills’ Blake Corbin.

The Little League complex got a $2-million face lift three years ago. Old bunk houses and outhouses, built before World War II, were demolished in favor of two-story buildings with indoor plumbing.


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