Volume 77, Number 1 | June 6 - 12, 2007

Sports

Villager photo by Judith Stiles

Hera Bergmann, left, of the Reds, and Maggie Zier, of the Padres.

Rain doesn’t dampen 2 Little League ladies’ goals

By Judith Stiles

When there is a rain delay, Little Leaguers generally don’t have the luxury of groundskeepers scurrying onto the field with giant tarps until the rain passes. At J.J. Walker Field at the corner of Hudson and Clarkson Sts., there is one puny tarp to cover the pitcher’s mound and no dugout cover for the players.

When the rain let loose after the first inning of the Greenwich Village Little League Padres-Reds Majors A game, the grumbling and the rumbling really began. This was the last game before the playoffs and the Padres had already given quite a wallop to the Reds, enjoying an 8-0 lead at the end of the first inning. Since the rain kept coming, umpire Spencer Washington halted the game, as he and a few parents scrambled to cover the mound.

Instead of hovering under umbrellas, the players merrily hit the field to toss balls and run around in the downpour, as the managers and various adults argued testily about the issue of player safety and rain.

“It can be very dangerous for the pitcher if the mound is wet and slippery!” blurted out one parent in the middle of the huddle with the umps.

“Yes, and when the turf in the outfield gets wet, somebody can get hurt!” added another dad.

An eager Padres pop countered, “There’s no lightning. So what if it gets a little sloppy?”

Meanwhile, the boys and two lone girls on the teams were having a blast cavorting in the outfield, oblivious to the heated argument over whether or not to call the game. As it turned out, there was a subplot and other issues at play, because the Padres needed a win and 17 runs to move from fourth place to third before the playoffs. Reds Manager Joe Bergmann said, “That’s like slimey…trying to win at the expense of the kids’ safety.”

Padres Manager Gerard Koeppel was excited about having the lead and hopeful about a win, admitting he had promised his team he would shave his head if they won the game. In the nearby stands, attorney Jill Hanekamp, mother of Maggie Zier of the Padres joked, “Hey, I can draw up a quick waiver if you need one!”

Washington listened to all sides, looked up at the sky for a moment, and declared that the game would continue, in spite of a steady drizzle. Meanwhile, nobody had consulted with the players about what they preferred. However, before resuming play, Hera Bergmann of the Reds calmly remarked, “I just like to play baseball and I don’t really care what happens. This one is between the managers.”

As it turned out, Tropical Storm Barry showed little mercy as the rain got heavier and a few umbrellas turned inside out. Suddenly, the game ended with the Reds declaring a forfeit when the score hit 13-0 in favor of the Padres, which left the Padres hanging, just four runs away from moving out of fourth place. Ironically, just as the forfeit was declared, the sun poked through the clouds for a brief moment, leaving everyone mildly confused. 

Standings, score differentials, playoff spots and so forth seemed to mean very little to the rain-soaked players. Many of them just wanted to play baseball and were disappointed the adults stopped the game so early. In the little time that they played, the game belonged to Bergmann, who did an outstanding job as catcher for the Reds, and was exemplary in her positive attitude and good sportsmanship. In the day’s last great play, Maggie Zier confidently whacked the ball to center field in the third inning, driving in two runs, upping the score to 13-0.

Both Zier and Bergmann are not really thinking about standings, and are already looking past the aborted game toward the upcoming postseason. The only girls in the Majors A Division, they’re busy focusing on their personal games and what they want to work on in practice. That is, if it doesn’t rain.

“I hope to improve my hitting,” Zier said emphatically, “because although I hit very well during practice, I have not hit nearly as well during this season as I have in the past.”

Added Bergmann, “I do want to run faster, and learn to switch-hit, but mostly, I just try to be as consistent as I can be. That’s my number one goal.”

And although the weather may not be consistent, Bergmann is right — consistency is an important buzzword in baseball these days. Maybe the Yankees could take a few tips from these levelheaded Little League girls.


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