NEW YORK -- For a day, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and the big leaguers
were looking up to the Little Leaguers.
Shinjo, manager Bobby Valentine and the New York Mets welcomed
the Tokyo Kitasuna team to Shea Stadium on Monday, only 14 hours
after the Japanese kids won the Little League World Series.
"I was very proud of the way they came back to win the last two
days," Shinjo said through an interpreter.
Shinjo, playing his first season in the majors after a
successful career in Japan, gave the team an autographed ball.
Valentine, who once managed in Japan, presented Mets' pins.
Before the Mets played the San Francisco Giants, the Little
Leaguers ran out to their positions. Mets' players, led by Shinjo
in center field, greeted the 2001 champs.
Nobuhisa Baba, who got the winning hit Sunday night, was among
three players in center who bowed to Shinjo.
"I think I was more excited to meet them than my players
were," Tokyo coach Kiichiro Kubo, proudly wearing a Mets' cap,
said through a translator.
Kubo said he had seen Shinjo and Valentine at games in Japan,
but had never spoken to them.
Shinjo put a good show for the visitors. He hit a home run and
made a nice catch in the Mets' 6-5 defeat.
On Sunday night, the Japan team rallied for two runs in the
sixth and final inning to defeat Apopka, Fla., 2-1 for the title in
South Williamsport, Pa.
On Saturday night, Tokyo also rallied for two runs in the bottom
of the sixth to beat Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, 2-1 for the
Shinjo said he got to see part of the championship game. The
Mets beat the Giants 6-5 Sunday night.
Kubo said his players were so excited by their victory that they
did not get much sleep.
"Maybe five hours," he said.
Valentine, who grew up in Stamford, Conn., playfully commented
he would have favored a local team.
"It probably would've been more fun if it was a team from
Connecticut or New York. But, yes, it was fun," he said.
Danny Almonte and the Bronx team that lost to Apopka in the U.S.
championship game will be honored at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday
before New York plays Toronto.||