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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Little League Scores on Moscow Turf

At Little League games in the United States, the parents are animals. They stand on the sidelines, their arms frantically gesturing to underscore words of encouragement and love like "Get the ball you idiot!" or "Hey ! My grandmother could throw farther than that!"

The Moscow Little League experience is different. Every Saturday, for the short seven-week season that culminates with playoffs on June 8, 237 Little League players and their incredibly well-behaved parents gather at Moscow State University's massive astro-turfed stadium for a day-long event that includes swinging bats, catching balls and getting tans.

Like their parents, Moscow's Little League players, mostly students at the Anglo-American School and Hinkson Christian Academy, are different from the kids you'd find at similar games in suburban America. Moscow's Little Leaguers have a cosmopolitan take on the game.

Mary Kirst, a ninth-grader at the Anglo-American School, who likes to play right field, says knowingly, "Most countries don't have any fields as big as this. Moscow's cool."

Another player, who obviously plays for the Indians since her face bears the team's signature blue and white "war paint," agrees. "It's a lot of fun," says Charlotte Freeman, a fifth grader, as she scratches her forehead with a black lacquered and bitten fingernail. "I played in the U.A. [United Arab Emirates]. Soccer is my favorite sport. I play tennis, and I don't like football."

Tiffany, a 10-year-old who is being home-schooled, plays for the Reds. She stands on the sidelines playing catch with a friend and waiting for her parents to get back from McDonald's with lunch. While Tiffany likes Moscow, she has some complaints as well. "It's not as great as America," she said. "You don't get all the stuff. I miss being able to go to a grocery store and everything is all packaged up for you."

Moscow native Ilya Brodsky, a seventh-grader at Hinkson Christian Academy, plays for the Astros. Although he has been playing for three years, he is decidedly unenthusiastic about Little League. "I don't really like baseball," Ilya said as he repeatedly threw a ball into his mitt. "I think it's boring. I prefer basketball and soccer."

Boring or not, Ilya has seen many changes in his three year Little League experience.

Founded four years ago with about 50 kids from expatriate schools, the organization has grown so large that founding parent Susan Crawford said they had to turn prospective players away this year.

And while she said she feels bad about this, Crawford emphasized that those who get in are playing in a much better league. "The level of play has improved a lot over the last four years," Crawford said.

So has the equipment. The teams started with a few balls and old mitts. Now they boast major league licensed T-shirts and hats, and top of the line bats and balls -- all shipped from San Antonio, where one parent had connections.

And they're organized -- for $250, any Moscow-based company can sponsor one of the 18 teams, which range from tee-ball, for 6-year-olds, to coach pitch for second graders, to Triple A, the top league for high schoolers.

In the old days, Crawford recalls, she used to put ads in the school papers asking if parents travelling to the United States could bring back some equipment. Back then, Crawford lugged over a pitching machine on a British Airways flight.

"I had to pay extra because it was so heavy," she said. "But it was worth it. You hate to be over here four years and not have your kids get a chance to play baseball."