Fans queue up for tickets to tonight's Taney game

Isaac Schmidt, from Philadelphia, wearing the Taney Baseball jersey, played for Taney from age 4 to 12. He was waiting in line with his family to get tickets to the game. The line for tickets at the will call window, at the stadium behind home plate, at noon on Wednesday stretched around the exterior of Lamade stadium outfield from left field all the way around to the edge of right field.
Isaac Schmidt, from Philadelphia, wearing the Taney Baseball jersey, played for Taney from age 4 to 12. He was waiting in line with his family to get tickets to the game. The line for tickets at the will call window, at the stadium behind home plate, at noon on Wednesday stretched around the exterior of Lamade stadium outfield from left field all the way around to the edge of right field. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 20, 2014

Two hours before free ticket distribution started for tonight's Taney game against Las Vegas, a line stretched around the stadium, at least 2,000 people long.

People sat in chairs, lounged on blankets, read books and bonded with fellow line mates.

Michael Sailor and his son Sivan came in from Aspen, Colorado. Michael Sailor was born and raised in Philadelphia and wore an official Taney hat and T-shirt, which he was able to get before the merchandise started selling out.

"Philly blood runs deep, and you never turn your back on your home colors," he said as Sivan, 11, decked out in the West team's turquoise T-shirt and hat, shook his head in disagreement.

The father-son duo got in line at 7:45 a.m. for the noon ticket distribution. It was enough time for Sivan to finish reading book number five in Matt Christopher's Little League World Series collection. Spoiler alert: The Mid Atlantic wins at the end of the book.

"It's foreshadowing!" dad said as his son gave him a gentle shove, "No it's not!"

About 10 yards up the hill, Jonathan Olsen, who coaches the 11-and-under Taney team, waited in line for tickets. "We haven't talked to (the team), we're leaving them alone today. Just happy to be cheerleaders," Olsen said.

Bob Brown, 58, and his son Michael, 13, came up from Sea Isle City. "I'm not nervous about anything. I think they have this game," Michael said confidently.

The line was mostly Mid-Atlantic light blue and maroon - the gift shop got in a new shipment of merchandise this morning - with some West fans mixed in throughout.

Camryn Domiano, 13, and her friend Alyssa Wilcox, 13, are from Pittston, 90 minutes away from Williamsport, but sheepishly admitted they're rooting for the West.

Why?

"Austin, the pitcher," Camryn said her face into a smile. She then produced a photo of her and the tall, blond pitcher.

"We talked to him yesterday," Alyssa said of Austin Kryszczuk, who is slated to start tonight's game against Taney and their star pitcher, Mo'ne Davis.

What did they talk about?

"Well, we were scared. We just asked for a picture," Camryn said.

Domiano's mother Amy chatted about cheesesteaks with Mark Chimel, who came up from Philadelphia. Last time she was in Philadelphia she preferred Geno's to Pat's. Chimel didn't agree.

People further ahead in line chimed in. "Tony Luke's," a man shouted. A woman nearby agreed, "Oh yeah, blows the rest out of the water."

Nearly 40,000 people showed up the last time Taney played and the security team at Howard J. Lamade Stadium prepared for a similar sized crowd Wednesday.

Two weeks out of the year dozens of added security descends on the complex in the rural town to double the number of security cameras and ready the area for fans.

Jon Ferguson has headed the technical side of security for 16 years, working next to his father, a veteran of 25 years in physical security at the event.

"From the security perspective it's all about a strong balance between safety and not making the complex look like a compound," said Ferguson.

The biggest headache is the metal detector - you can't even bring in sunscreen, which wasn't an issue on overcast Wednesday.

Ferguson wouldn't provide a specific number of cameras, for security reasons, he said. But there are hundreds of cameras between the concession stands, three entry gates, two fields, two gift shops, and the Little League Headquarters building.

"We're always watching," he said. "The entire complex is under surveillance."

At the bottom of the scoreboard at Lamade, the main field, two HDTV cameras look out on the crowd. They can zoom and scan to identify faces and names on ID cards for every person in the stadium. The technology is especially helpful when it comes to reuniting parents and lost kids.

"If a kid describes their parent, more often than not we can use the cameras to find them in the crowd," said Rob Muhelbaure, business development manager for Axis Communications, which provides the cameras.

The cameras can even read faces on the steep hill where fans sit in the outfield.

The arena is also equipped with thermal cameras to detect if someone is jumping over a fence or trying to sneak into "the grove," where the players stay.

"It adds some level of second guessing to anyone who might be considering anything," Ferguson said.

The grove is the most secured part of the property. No one gets in without an access card and a real-time camera verifies that the face of the player or coach walking in matches the face on the ID card. No match and an alarm sounds.

If one of the preteens loses an ID - which happens all the time, Ferguson said, the team immediately deactivates it.

Parents can't even enter with the exception of special occasions - like the celebration Sunday night following Taney's win, when parents and kids gathered in a tent known as the bullpen.

As difficult as it is to get into the grove, it's easy for parents to sign out players, if they want to take them out to dinner or bring them back to their hotel for a night.

Fans are mostly well behaved. In Ferguson's 16 years only a few arrests have occurred though he won't go into detail.

During the Texas game Sunday a line of security officers stood in front of both parents' sections.

No alcohol or tobacco products are permitted, which dials back on bad behavior.

Though some parents at the high stakes event, as Ferguson noted, could probably use a drink.

The Las Vegas, West Division T-shirts are bright turquoise but spotting them amid the sea of light blue and maroon Wednesday was nearly impossible.

Guy Visconti, 19, lives in Schuylkill Haven, Pa., where he attends their Penn State campus, but he's originally from Nevada.

"It's the first time we've had a team here so it's a big deal," Visconti said of his home state.

He played in 2007 for a Nevada team that was one win away from Williamsport. Now he's hoping his team makes history at the expense of the hometown heroes.

"It is crazy, everyone's for Mid Atlantic," he said, surveying the outfield where fans without tickets had set up blankets and chairs. "There's really not many West fans here at all."

As he made that realization, a player for Las Vegas, with the official player badge and jersey, walked by unnoticed and gave a nod to Visconti.

Vegas fans that traveled to Williamsport had to wait in the longest line thus far of the tournament to get seats for Wednesday's game. The 2,700 seats were gone in 90 minutes.

"Today was crazy, crazy, crazy," said Lowell Easterly, who operates the Will Call window.

Those without tickets, like Visconti, can sit on the steep (and muddy) hill in the outfield – where Visconti said "the real fans sit."

jterruso@phillynews.com

856-779-3876

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