Saudi Arabia pursuing fifth straight Series berth despite security concerns
August 7, 2004
KUTNO, Poland — It has become an annual rite of summer: Little League teams from around Europe travel to Poland to battle for second place in the Transatlantic Little League tournament.
First place has belonged to the team from Saudi Arabia.
For the past four years, the Arabian-American Little League team from Dharhan has captured the tournament crown and the berth in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The Saudi team almost didn’t make it to this year’s tournament. Security concerns have prompted hundreds of Americans to leave the desert kingdom over the past few years.
But those who stayed wanted to play, coach Mike Robinette said.
“It [the talent pool] is thinning out,” he said, “but the love of baseball remains.”
If the first two games are any indication, that could be bad news for the rest of the field.
Behind the two-hit pitching of Josh Amado, the Saudis crushed Ramstein 12-1 Thursday night. Amado struck out 13 in the complete-game victory.
For an encore, Saudi Arabia came back with a 20-0 victory over Naples on Friday.
The Saudi Arabia coaches claim that Amado’s fastball is near 80 mph.
“He can hum it,” Robinette said. “We have a good stable of pitchers.”
Amado, 12, said tradition didn’t play a part in Thursday’s game.
“It’s fun,” Amado said. “There’s no pressure at all.”
The Saudi team arrived in Poland with high expectations. Saudi has made 15 trips to Williamsport since winning its first European title in 1983.
“This is the start of our dream,” Robinette said after Thursday’s victory. “It was a good start. We liked what we saw out there.”
Robinette said the Williamsport experience never grows stale, no matter how many times his team has been there.
“Every year, it’s a different bunch of kids and a different bunch of coaches,” he said, adding that a sense of community keeps things fresh.
“We’re like a large military base,” he said. “We work together and we play together.”