On Aug. 20, Will Lucas, a lanky righty from Fairfield, Conn., pitched a no-hitter in the Little League World Series. His performance was the opening highlight—the lead—on ESPN’s SportsCenter the next morning. That’s a lot of pressure to put on a bunch of prepubescent ballplayers, a few with voices higher than an Albert Pujols homer. Are we such a sports-obsessed society that we’ll devour the sporting thrills and heartbreak of children just to hold us over until football season?
But try telling the 11-year-olds from impoverished Lugazi, Uganda, who play in bare feet at home, why they shouldn’t be on television. They’ll just keep smiling and having the time of their lives in Williamsport, Pa., host since 1947 to the series—a 10-day tournament featuring eight teams from across the U.S. and eight international teams from places like Mexico, Curaçao, Japan and Panama.
Plus, the kids give better interviews than the pros. After Lucas hurled his no-no, an ESPN reporter asked a typical postgame question: How did it feel to be on the bottom of a celebratory dog pile? “It’s exciting,” Lucas said. “But then at the end, it really hurts.” Sharp, and funny. Can we call him up to the big leagues?
Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME.
Wayne Lawrence is a Brooklyn-based photographer. See more of his work here.