- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 22, 2009

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. | Jim Rice criticized today’s major leaguers as too individualistic, then offered Little Leaguers some old-school tips: Respect your opponents, don’t showboat and stay off performance-enhancing drugs.

Later, to stress his point at a news conference before the start of the Little League World Series, the new baseball Hall of Famer flexed the muscles in his right arm and said, “That’s all the steroids you need. … It’s called God-given talent.”

Nick Pucciarelli - all 5-foot-4 and 122 pounds of him - put on a hitting display Friday that would have made Rice proud. The 12-year-old outfielder homered and tripled as Staten Island, N.Y., beat Mercer Island, Wash., 10-2, on the opening day of the series.

Staten Island’s players didn’t get to hear Rice’s talk because they were getting ready for their game, though the former Boston Red Sox outfielder did offer the New Yorkers some hitting advice in the dugout.

“He was telling us how to hit line drives and ground balls. If you roll your hands over, it’s always going to be a ground ball,” Pucciarelli said.

Manager Michael Zaccariello, sitting two seats over, whispered a gentle reminder.

“You guys have heard that before, right?” he asked, as Pucciarelli nodded. Zaccariello said the team’s hitting coach, Glen Morisano, gives the same tips to the players.

“Just checking,” the manager said.

Taoyuan, Taiwan, routed Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany, 16-0 in a contest shortened to four innings because of the 10-run rule. Yu Chieh Kao had a three-run homer as Taiwan scored 12 times in the first two innings.

Offering a faint smile, Kao tilted his head and tugged nervously at the buttons on his jersey when asked about his big blast.

“I told myself relax, take your time, and I did it,” the 12-year-old catcher said through an interpreter.

Warner Robins, Ga., beat Urbandale, Iowa, 11-3; San Antonio beat Peabody, Mass., 10-1 in the day’s final game.

Rice wasn’t the only notable name at the complex. Retired New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, a central Pennsylvania native from nearby Montoursville who is on Little League’s board of directors, watched the Staten Island game with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

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