'I Want To Pitch For O's'

August 27, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The young interpreter for the Venezuelan team at the Little League World Series was doing fine until the star pitcher used an unfamiliar term.

Stumped, the interpreter pleaded for a clarification.

Cesar Hidalgo, the 12-year-old right-hander with the 75-mph fastball, then ran his right thumb and right index finger downward alongside his ear, widening his fingers near the lobe.

"Oh," the interpeter said. "Sideburns. I know the word. For some reason, it just didn't come to me."

Hidalgo was explaining why Brady Anderson was his favorite player on his favorite team, the Orioles.

"I like his sideburns and I like his batting style," Hidalgo said through an interpreter. "Brady Anderson and Cal Ripken. I like to watch them the most."

If the strike is over by then, Hidalgo could be pitching for the Orioles sometime early next century. Or so he hopes.

Hidalgo's brother, Jose, is a 20-year-old, .294-hitting catcher for the Orioles' rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate in Sarasota, Fla.

Cesar said he would like to follow his brother into the Orioles' organization, but he does not want to wear a chest protector and a mask. He wants to stand on the other end of the battery.

"I like being a pitcher," Cesar said. "I like striking people out."

The players from the Taiwanese team that lost Tuesday to Venezuela, 4-1, would have no reason to challenge that statement.

Hidalgo struck out the first 12 batters he faced and went on to pitch a six-inning complete-game two-hitter with 15 strikeouts.

He takes the mound for Venezuela today against a team from Northridge, Calif., with the Little League World Series at stake.

After yesterday's practice, he and his teammates joined players from Northridge and other teams that participated in the Little League World Series for an afternoon of splashing at a nearby water slide.

Friends yesterday. Foes today. Such is the Little League World Series.

How many hitters does Hidalgo want to strike out today?

"Twelve or 13," he answered in Spanish.

Before the interpreter had a chance to translate the response, Luis Mejias, one of the Venezuelan coaches, interrupted and told the interpreter what Cesar meant to say.

"Cesar said he is going to do his best and he is not worried about how many hitters he will strike out," the interpreter related.

Relieved, the short and round Mejias turned to the reporter who asked the question and introduced himself with the only two English words he used all morning: "Porky Pig."

All the Venezuelan players call Mejias by his nickname, Porky.

Mejias coached Chicago White Sox left-hander Wilson Alvarez at a similar age.

"They both throw very hard, about the same," Porky, er Mejias, said in Spanish. "Cesar has better control than Wilson had and Wilson had a better curveball, a much bigger break."

Alvarez and Ken Griffey are Hidalgo's favorite non-Orioles players.

Hidalgo's mother will be in the stands for today's title game. His father, a chemical engineer, will watch from home in Maracaibo. His brother will be playing for the Orioles' rookie ball team in Florida.

Cesar Hidalgo, who is hitting .385 in the Little League World Series, represents Coquivacoa Little League today. He has higher aspirations.

"I want to pitch for the Orioles one day," Cesar Hidalgo said through the interpreter. "And I want my brother to be my catcher. He taught me how to swing a bat and how to use a glove."

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