When Thomas McDermott Jr. introduced Rigo Martinez to a reporter, he added, "He's going to be our starting pitcher for the first game."
The way Rigo's eyes widened, it seemed as if that may have been news to him.
"You're not nervous there, buddy," said McDermott, who will not only be hosting mayor of the Cal Ripken Major/60 World Series starting Friday at the Hammond Optimist Youth Sports complex, but is the manager of the HOYS Bulldogs, who are part of the 10-team field.
"He's a stud," McDermott said of Rigo, who leads the Bulldogs with 14 homers. "He's a real grinder on the mound. So is Randall (Perrin)."
Though the Bulldogs' home field complex has a state-of-the-art drainage system and new sod on the fields to be used for the WS games, the team has endured a "Sandlot movie" existence while practicing on a rough-edged softball field adjacent to the Hammond Civic Center.
"Practicing on a skinned infield makes the ball move a little faster on grounders," said Bulldogs coach Jack Smith. "The field kind of toughens us up."
Though the Bulldogs were granted an automatic berth as hosts, they didn't have an idle summer. As of last week, the team had a 42-8 record for the season.
"We've been doing real well this season," said Bulldogs third baseman Isaac Rosa, "and I believe we're playing our best ball right now."
"I'm excited and I think we have a good chance," said HOYS outfielder Alex Flores. "Yeah, I'm a little nervous, but in a good way."
The Bulldogs will face the Midwest Plains Regional champion, Grand Forks, N.D., at 7:30 p.m. Friday on Field 5. Other pool-play games for HOYS will be 5 p.m. Saturday (Field 5) against Mid-Atlantic Regional winner Kingsbridge, NY; 8 p.m. Monday (Field 5) against Southeast Regional winner Opp, Ala.; and 8 p.m. Tuesday (Field 5) against Pacific Northwest Regional winner East Boise, Idaho.
Any possible HOYS meeting with Crown Point, which earned the Northern Indiana champion berth, will take place during the single-elimination bracket, running Aug. 14-16.
"We're going in treating this like any other tournament we've been in this season," said catcher, outfielder and third baseman Jacob Smith. "There's just going to be more competition at this one."