Northern boys make international friends

by Kristin Gold
Posted by Web Staff - email | Twitter 

Unlike the Majors and College, the Little League World Series really does include the rest of the world.  Eight international teams join the eight regional teams in Williamsport, PA.  And, when the players all live, eat and play together they're bound to make new friends.

The Northern players have done just that.  It all started over a game of ping pong in the rec room.  The team from Japan walked in and said hello.  "We were playing ping pong and they walk in and Zack says hi and they said hey back," said Jalen Latta.

With that hello, Latta and Zack Cravens made friends with Ginga Maruoka. "He had a cool accent when he said hi. It was just really cool," Cravens said.  "He was the first one that started talking to us," Latta said. "We asked him what his name was and we're thinking of the game Jenga, but he spells it differently."

The Japanese players can only speak a few words of English and the Northern boys can't speak any Japanese, so they communicate via hand signals and an interpreter.  "We told the interpreter to tell them some stuff for us, so we could talk to them," Latta said.  But, Cravens prefers hand signals.

After Northern's win over Hawaii, Maruoka let the boys know he was watching. "Ginga said good job," Cravens said. "He said thumbs up [giving thumbs up hand motion]."  Cravens reciprocated when Maruoka hit the winning homerun in Japan's 4-2 win over Mexico. "I said, [thumbs up, homerun hand signal]."

This new found friendship has inspired Cravens to learn Japanese. "I want to, it sounds hard though. They speak so fast."  Until then, hand signals will have to do.

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