With the all TV coverage, the slickly-packaged features and a stadium that can hold more than 30,000 people, the little left the Little League World Series a long time ago.
These days it's easy to forget that these are still just kids — 11 and 12-year-olds — playing a game. Pearland All-Star pitcher Beau Orlando reminded everyone when in the midst of a long day against Hawaii's relentless hitters, his manager Mike Orlando asked him if he was having fun.
"No," Beau Orlando quickly shot back, a kid's honesty coming through the TV microphones.
It wasn't a fun day for Pearland. Hawaii knocked the team from Texas out of the Little League World Series with a 10-0 pounding in the U.S. Championship Game Saturday, but that hardly means it wasn't a fun run.
"The whole experience has been more than I imagined," Pearland manager Mike Orlando told CultureMap in a phone interview from Williamsport before the game. "More than any of us imagined."
Orlando — who told this All-Star group it could get to Williamsport in the group's first team meeting on June 15 — didn't expect this ending. None of the Pearland players did. That's why there were tears at the game's finish.
Hawaii moves on to play Japan in the World Championship Game on Sunday. Pearland gets to play once more in Williamsport in the consolation game Sunday morning against a powerful Chinese Taipei squad.
Hawaii was playing its fifth game in five days, but there was still plenty of island zip in this team. With a two-run double and a two-run home run over the center field wall from Noah Shackles, Hawaii jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
For the second straight elimination game, Pearland needed a comeback.
But on this day, the power wouldn't be there for the team known for its Texas wallop. Pearland came into the game, having six players who'd hit a home run in Williamsport. Cousins Beau and Jake Orlando hit two each. No one had really stopped Pearland's offense in Williamsport.
Mike Orlando's team scored 35 runs in its first four games in the Little League World Series. Game 5, the game for the U.S. Championship, would be a different story.
Hawaii's slight left-handed starter Ezra Heleski left Pearland's power off balance. And Hawaii scored three more in the third inning to take a 7-0 lead, all but sounding taps on Pearland's magic carpet ride. The official end would come when Hawaii scored its 10th run in the fifth inning to end the game on the mercy rule.
But what a run it was.
Pearland's power team slowly captured the attention of entire Houston area, hitting overdrive after the Texas bunch rolled to two easy victories in Williamsport. Suddenly, their games drew higher ratings than Houston Astros' telecasts. On Wednesday night, the Pearland game recorded a 6.1 Nielsen rating in Houston, while the Astros game with the powerhouse Philadelphia Phillies posted a 2.1. Texas governor candidate Bill White tweeted CultureMap's story on Pearland pulling off a last-inning rally to make the U.S. Championship Game.
Mike Orlando and his players have felt the Texas fever more than 1,500 miles away in this rather-remote Pennsylvania town.
"It's caught me by surprise," Mike Orlando told CultureMap from Williamsport. "When we went to Waco (for the Regional tournament), we weren't a story. It just took off and it's become more than just a Pearland thing. It's a whole Houston area deal. Which means a lot to people in Pearland."
Even if the town's name was often still mispronounced by outsiders during this run. They'll never forget this team.