SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) – Eddie Abramson reared back, kicked up his left leg, then swung his arm directly over his head, mimicking the motion of his idol, Sandy Koufax.

There’s one big difference, though.

“I try to throw like him, but he’s a lefty. I’m a righty,” said the 12-year-old pitcher who plays for Maitland, Fla., flashing a smile that revealed braces.

For kids like Eddie, the Little League World Series is a chance to live big league dreams.

“I like pitching. I like hitting, but I haven’t gotten a hit yet. I guess like pitching more,” said Abramson, his powder-blue jersey partially unbuttoned after an exhibition game.

His team was eliminated Wednesday night by Rancho Buena Vista of Vista, Calif., which will play West Oahu of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, for the U.S. championship Saturday.

Japan and Curacao meet Saturday night for the international title. The winners of each bracket play Sunday for the Little League crown and the right to take the traditional victory jog on the warning track around Lamade Stadium.

Abramson’s idolization of Koufax, the Dodgers’ Hall of Famer who played in the 1950s and 1960s, was hardly a typical choice for a Little Leaguer. Most might go with someone a little more current, such as Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter.

Kevin Garcia, a 12-year-old pitcher and third baseman for Seguro Social from Mexicali, Mexico, idolizes Chipper Jones, the Atlanta Braves third baseman who wears No. 10.

“I’ve liked him since I was 7 years old,” Garcia said. “When he got the MVP in 1999, I got the MVP, too. Since then, I’ve been No. 10.”

Through an interpreter, Garcia’s teammate, Edgar Lopez, named fellow left-handed hitter Ken Griffey Jr. as his favorite player. With his teammates looking on, Lopez took a mock swing, lifting his front leg and stepping forward in an attempt to copy Griffey’s swing.

The increasing exposure of baseball on television has had a tremendous impact on youngsters, coaches say. Even outside the United States, games involving the Braves, Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers can often be caught on cable outlets or the satellite dish.

In the dorms where players stay during the tournament – only coaches are allowed – kids crowd around TVs to catch the major leaguers on nightly highlight shows.

Beyond the jersey numbers, batting stances and pitching motions, the major league influence is evident in other ways.

Kids spit on the field and bump fists to greet each other during pregame ceremonies and after home runs.

The team from Willemstad, Curacao, the defending champs, tries to watch Braves games at home. Atlanta slugger Andruw Jones is from Willemstad, and baseball’s popularity in Curacao has surged because of him.

“All parents want their kids to be the second Andruw Jones,” manager Vernon Isabella said through an interpreter.

At the same time, 11- and 12-year-old Little Leaguers can be broken of bad habits they might develop in trying too hard to copy the major leaguers.

“It’s much easier to influence them,” said Isabella, an infielder on Curacao’s national team. “At this age, you have more of a grip. As they get older, you begin to lose that grip.”

Outfielder Sherman La Crus is the lucky Curacao player who got to wear No. 25, the same number worn by Andruw Jones.

The Braves’ star had 40 homers going into Friday’s game.

La Crus, through an interpreter, says he doesn’t try to copy Jones.

But he put on a hitting display Thursday night that would have made his idol proud, slamming a home run and double to help his team reach the international title game.


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