- Last Updated: 4:34 AM, August 20, 2012
- Posted: 12:46 AM, August 20, 2012
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The little kids — real little — huddled up to watch the stars from Par-Troy East in Parsippany, N.J., take batting practice in the cages of the Little League complex here yesterday.
“That’s the kid from New Jersey,” one pint-size boy said to his comrade, while pointing to Emil Matti, moments before he went up to the 13-year-old to ask for an autograph.
Emil Matti, rock star.
“It’s kind of fun,” said a smiling Matti, who is 4-of-6 with two home runs in the World Series for Par-Troy East, which faces Petaluma, Calif. at 4 p.m. today, hoping to fight off elimination for a second straight game. “I wasn’t surprised to be asked. In Bristol [Conn., at the Regionals], they said we’re going to get asked for a lot of autographs. I was surprised they actually knew me. They came up and said, ‘Were you the one who pitched the shutout in Bristol?’ ”
That was him. Matti laughs at the attention — which is spreading to the team’s others stars, such as Bener Uygun, the right-hander who will pitch against California and who estimates he has signed his name at least 100 times for fans.
But both kids seem remarkably grounded and are not letting the attention get to their heads. Plus, their parents remind them to keep their commercially-donated baseball shoes on the ground.
“We try to tell him, ‘Even though you have this ability, you have to get the respect of people and to do so. You don’t need a big head. You don’t need to show off. Just play the game,’ ” said Ramon Matti, Emil’s dad, whose struggles have been well-chronicled after the family’s home was devastated by Hurricane Irene last summer and the community joined in to help the rebuilding project.
Matti has been one of the standouts here. Oregon manager Jason Trickel, after seeing Matti slug two homers Saturday night noted, no matter how his guys pitched Matti, “He was hitting it on a rope. … The beginning of their lineup hit well all night. They were raking.”
They would be Matti, Daniel Ruggiero (manager Mike Ruggiero’s son), Uygun and a superb catcher, Anthony Scannelli.
This talented team likely will see California’s 6-foot-3 hulk, Bradley Smith, pitch today. California, the squad with maybe the most pitching depth in the tournament, yesterday went through three hurlers who will be ineligible to pitch today.
Uygun is the starter for New Jersey after throwing 35 pitches Saturday. By Little League rules, 36-50 pitches require three days’ rest. And Par-Troy East is very comfortable with Uygun on the mound.
“Since they’ve been 8, we’ve played somewhere near 145 games or so, and up until the last year, every time we went on the field, Emil was the best player, no matter who we played,” said coach Ed Phillips, who ran yesterday’s practice as Mike Ruggiero drove home to New Jersey and back to deal with the death of his father-in-law.
“That’s kind of changed with the way Bener has advanced. Bener has improved to the point where I joke around with people in town and say if we were starting a team, you can have the first pick and I won’t complain about getting the second pick. They’re two special players.”
But there are others.
“Another kid that has an unbelievable amount of talent is Anthony [Scannelli]. He’s got a lot of speed, he hits for average, he’s a great defensive catcher. Mike’s kid, Daniel, you see the way he plays.
“We have four super players, and we have a lot of other very good players,” Phillips concluded.Follow @NYPostsports