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Berwyn Paoli Area Little League

BPALL Sports Desk

Interview with a Champion - Derek DeLatte

On August 25th of 2019, thirteen boys from Louisiana’s Eastbank Little League were crowned World Series champions. To put this in perspective, 7,700 teams from five continents play 16,000 games in 45 days. Sixteen finalists eventually converge on Williamsport, Pennsylvania to compete for the championship. By all measures, it is the largest elimination tournament in the world. 

Twelve year-old Derek DeLatte, the starting second-baseman for the world champions, was kind enough to grant a FaceTime interview to the BPALL Sports Desk. The opportunity was especially sweet for our 7 Sports Desk youth journalists as they travelled to Williamsport in the summer of 2019 to experience the tournament for themselves.

LOGAN TURNER: You played nearly 20 games on your two month journey from Louisiana to the World Championship in Williamsport. Is there one game that stands out in your memory

DEREK DELATTE: Probably the the Texas West game [the Regional finals]—the championship, knowing we would go to Williamsport if we won. We were all excited and hyped up before the game. It was a really tough game.

JOHN PAUL TINNENY: We learned that your team practiced five hours a day in Williamsport. Those are long practices. What was it like? Did you practice that long and hard during Districts, States, and Regionals?

DEREK: Usually at the Districts, States, and Regionals we’d practice about four hours a day. Just like at Williamsport, we’d break it up with several practices—morning, afternoon and at night.

JOSEPH TINNENY: During those two weeks in Williamsport, what did you and your teammates do when you weren’t practicing or playing a game? Anything different or fun?

DEREK: We were usually in the recreation room with players from other countries and states, playing ping pong and other games. The most fun part was talking with them [players from foreign countries] because we’d have to use Google Translator to speak with them. We spoke with players from Curaçao, Venezuela, Mexico, Italy and South Korea.

J.R. RosadoNATHANAEL KUCH: On your World Series journey, who was the toughest pitcher you faced? What made him so challenging? And, as a batter, what adjustments do you make to hit a really good pitcher? 

DEREK: It was probably J.R. Rosado from the New Jersey team [Elmora Youth LL]. He was hard to hit because he was throwing side-arm at about 74 mph. I really didn’t make any adjustments though. I think it’s easier for me to hit the better pitchers. They are more accurate. For the less accurate pitchers, you really don’t know what’s coming at you.

JAMES TINNENY: Did you or your teammates have any pre-game rituals during the World Series? Any superstitions (like never changing your lucky socks)? 

DEREK: I think our shoes got a lot of attention. They got so hyped up. My teammate, Conner Perrot, his dad is an artist and did up our shoes. ESPN gave them a lot of attention.

LOGAN TURNER: You, William and Reece bat left and throw right. What’s that all about? For most ball-players, that sounds crazy.

DEREK: It’s easier to hit left-handed. Most pitchers throw right and the angle that it’s coming from—it’s easier [hitting from the left]. You’re also closer to first base. So when I was two or three years old, my dad stuck me on the left side. Now I’m a leftie at bat. 

JACK PILATO: What bat are you swinging these days?

DEREK: The DeMarini CF8. But it’s not an approved bat for Little League. [Derek appeared to favor the DeMarini Voodoo during the Little League World Series]

LOGAN TURNER: We understand there are MANY factors that go into being an elite batter. If you were asked to share one tip on batting that made a difference for you, what would it be?

DEREK: Swing at good pitches. You can’t hit the ball well if you are not swinging at good pitches.

NATHANAEL KUCH: Do you listen to music on game-day to get pumped up? If so, what do you listen to?

DEREK: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In Williamsport, as a team, we’d sometimes listen to rap music—Juice WRLD and Travis Scott. 

JOHN PAUL TINNENY: You had a lot of Yankee fans on your team?  Alton, Ryder, Peyton, and Jeffrey. And William appears to be a Red Sox fan. What’s up with that? Was there a lot of friendly smack-talk in the dugout?

DEREK: Yeah, some of us liked the Astros [closest MLB team to the New Orleans area]. Some liked the Yankees. Will was the only one who liked the Red Sox. He likes Mookie Betts and his dad’s from Boston. We’d get into “the Yankees are better; the Astros are better.” Will would come at us with the “Red Sox are better.” It was fun.

NICHOLAS ROMANO: Who is your favorite major league ball-player? What do you like about him?

DEREK: Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros. He went to LSU, where we are from. Played shortstop for the LSU Tigers. He’s a really good ball-player. [Logan Turner nodded his approval]

LOGAN TURNER: Hundreds of boys and girls in the Berwyn Paoli Area Little League will read the article we write. Many of them have or will have dreams of making it to the Little League World Series. What message would you share with them regarding their dreams?

DEREK: Always be confident. Work hard and practice hard. The way you practice is the way you are going to play in the game. Always stay positive. It’s better not to have too much joking around when you are practicing or are in the dugout or a game. 

Our BPALL Sports Desk Journalists
Nathaneal Kuch, Jack Pilato, Nicholas Romano, James Tinneny, John Paul Tinneny, Joseph Tinneny, Logan Turner


  

In the war-room and on the line (FaceTime) with Derek DeLatte. And in Williamsport at the Little League World Series.  

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A Final Question(s) for Derek's Father

During your son’s LLWS journey, from Districts to the big game, when were you most nervous? And when did you start believing that they “had this,” that they were going to take it all the way?

DEREK DELATTE SR (Dad): I was definitely most nervous when they were playing Texas West [Regional Title Game], because it was a one-game, winner take all. We beat them the first time. We had to then beat them a second time. And it was a really good game. They went on-top 1-0. We came back and made it 1-1. They went back on-top [2-1]. And we evened it up at 2-2 in the fourth inning. So those were the most nervous moments. 

Once we won that game [6-2], everything else lined up. Getting there [to the finals in Williamsport] is the most exciting part. You’re going to Williamsport; you’re getting that experience. Winning it was great. It’s just knowing you are going. Once you win it, the world championship—whether you win a Super Bowl for the Saints—once you win it, the season’s over. So winning—beating Curaçao—the season was over. It was great, but the season was over. But that Texas West game—everything was on the line there. If you lost, then, you don’t go to Williamsport. 

As far as when did we know that we’d make it—that we had what it takes to win it all—honestly, Derek wouldn’t have played if he didn’t think he had a chance to go all the way. I have been coaching six of those kids in travel-ball since they were five or six years old. When they decided to play Little League and I saw what kind of talent they had, we all knew they would have a great shot at Districts and States. And in that run [District and State games] they didn’t give up one run the whole time. Regionals were a little tougher and obviously the World Series finals were the toughest. But that Texas West game? That was the tough one. 

Like Derek said: practice hard. Don’t take anything for granted. Get out there and get your reps. Even if your team doesn’t have a practice and you can hit off a tee in your back yard, do whatever you can. I’ve been coaching for 30 years now and it was tough watching from the stands. The one thing I can tell you is keep working hard. I own a Sports Complex down in New Orleans. And we have a bunch of players—professionals, college players, high school, etc.—that come to the complex. They’ll sometimes grab a batting tee, hit off it for 45 minutes, and then walk out the door. Sometimes, that’s all they do when they come in. So its important to keep getting those reps in. And, like Derek said: be confident. You might strike out at one at-bat. Don’t bring that strike out to the next at-bat. Always be confident and try to get an edge. Learn from your previous at-bat.

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