From left, Andrew Kaplan, manager Lloyd Lowy and Michael Schott of the Angels at J.J. Walker Field.
Breakfast on Saturdays in the home of Jakob and Max Friedman is usually popping with excitement and anticipation of baseball, soccer, basketball, roller hockey and just about any sports activity that the boys are craving by the time Friday rolls around.
However, Saturday morning in the Friedman house, mom, Melissa definitely noticed the brothers were more than a bit subdued, both boys feeling a lot of pressure she remarked, as they headed off for the final rounds of the playoffs in the Majors B Division of Greenwich Village Little League.
It had been an unusual season for brothers Jakob, 11, of I.S. 89 Middle School, and Max, 9, of P.S. 3, because each weekend they suited up in different uniforms, often to square off against each other in a game Max in red for the Angels, and Jakob in blue for the Royals, among others things, complicating laundry issues for the family. Parents Marty and Melissa took the games in stride, never siding with one team or another, rather feeling a peculiar swing back and forth as they cheered in the stands for both teams.
As the boys polished off their breakfast, each one knew that there was a good chance the Angels would play the Royals that day for the championship. But first Max and his team would have to deal with some unfinished business replaying the final inning of the White Sox v. Angels game.
The Friday evening before, under beautiful late June skies, the White Sox played the Angels to determine which of the two teams would advance to compete in the championship game. Before getting started, the managers conferred with the umpires to review some of the tournament rules for the playoffs, then Balls in! was heard by all and the game began.
In the early inning the Angels got ahead with a nine-run lead but then valiantly the White Sox began to catch up, and by the end of the fifth inning the score was 13-10, with the Angels still in the lead. Before the sixth inning an important Little League baseball rule came into play the recurring issue of who is allowed to pitch. Did the pitcher in question pitch in the game before with enough rest in between? According to Barry Lafer, president of G.V.L.L., the rules about pitching were implemented for a good reason to protect the health of young players by not allowing them to over-pitch, an overuse of theirs arms and shoulders that can result in lifelong injuries.
The manager of the Angels, Lloyd Lowy, planned to put in his star pitcher, Jason Rojas, who had pitched for six innings in the prior game. But since that game had been played on the previous Sunday, Jason had banked more than the three days mandatory rest. The umpires gave the go-ahead for Jason to pitch and the sixth inning was played and won by the Angels, earning them a spot in Saturdays game against the Royals.
The Angels were not the team the locals had been betting on, which made the post-game celebration even sweeter for the Angels. Not so fast. The victory was no longer certain because manager Scott Adams of the White Sox knew that allowing a pitcher to pitch two consecutive games was a violation of tournament rules, even though it was allowed during regular league play after three days of rest. It turned out that the tournament rules for the playoffs were different from the rules that governed regular-season play.
Wanting to give his boys on the White Sox a fair shot at advancing, meaning a sixth inning played properly under tournament rules, Adams appealed the Angels win to Henry Daas, coordinator of the Majors B division. By 9 p.m. the ruling came down that in fact letting a pitcher pitch two consecutive games (even with three days rest) was not in accordance with tournament rules, causing Daas to deem this a forfeit on the part of the Angels.
Marty and Melissa Friedman did not know how to break the news to Max who had been thrilled with the win and the chance to face his big brothers team in the championship game. Neither parent wanted to burst his bubble. Fortunately, by 10 p.m. Daas came back and modified his ruling to declare that instead of a forfeit, the sixth inning would be played again first thing on Saturday morning before the championship game.
Again under bright sunny skies, Saturday morning, pitcher Andrew Kaplan of the Angels went on the mound for his team for the lone sixth inning and earned the victory against the White Sox for a second time, with a final score of 13-12. The managers and players shook hands and Max Friedman was once again elated to make it to the championship game.
In the next few hours, Marty and Melissa Friedman endured not one but two championship games, with their hearts ping-ponging back and forth. There were actually two games: Because of their records during the season, the second-place Angels had to win both games to win the championship, while the first-place Royals only had to win one. At the end of the day, the Royals won the championship in the second game with a final score of 18-6.
In a smart move on the part of G.V.L.L., the heated rivalries are set aside at seasons end for an annual All-Star Game, where the top players from all the teams play together in one celebration game. And this year luck would have it that the Angels and the White Sox joined forces as friends, not foes on the same All-Star team.
Not so fast. Seasons end? At G.V.L.L., baseball doesnt ever quite end, as spring rolls into summer games followed by fall ball, in a program that makes it possible for kids to play baseball almost year round in Greenwich Village. Some of the local die-hard baseball kids can actually be found with mitts and bats during December and January, not in Florida, rather warming up on the indoor turf field and at the batting cages at Pier 40.