6-Foot-8 13 Year Old Towers Over Foes

Aaron Durley towers over the competition at the Little League World Series.  The 13-year-old first baseman for Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, stands an imposing 6-foot-8 and weighs 256 pounds.

"I was standing next to him and I was up to his elbows," Scott Kingery, a 12-year-old, 4-foot-9 Phoenix shortstop, said after meeting Durley.

At the secluded dorms where teams stay during the tournament, Durley has become as much of an attraction as the pool, the pingpong table and the video arcade.

The soft-spoken Durley doesn't mind the attention. He even lets opponents snap pictures with him during down time.

But Durley, who played at the series last year, too - when he was a mere 6-foot-4 - is crystal-clear about his top priority in South Williamsport.

"I'm more confident this year, ready to do what I need to do," Durley said after a practice. "Hit the ball out."

Fittingly, his favorite major leaguer is David "Big Papi" Ortiz, the Boston Red Sox slugger.

Durley scored a run in his 2006 series debut last week. His next shot to belt a homer came Sunday, when his Arabian American squad from Dhahran was scheduled to face Saipan.

In early games Sunday, Columbia, Mo., routed Portsmouth, N.H., 14-5; Columbus, Ga., beat Phoenix, 4-1; and Beaverton, Ore., defeated Lake Charles, La., 9-1.

Arabian American is a fixture at the World Series, having qualified the last seven years, and 12 of the last 13. The players' parents primarily work for oil companies in the Middle East.

Dhahran might have had the longest road to Pennsylvania, qualifying for the series by winning the Transatlantic region tournament in Kutno, Poland, in late July.

The team has a peculiar baseball superstition - the players dye their hair blonde for the World Series.

As if Durley wasn't easy enough to pick out in a crowd.

Columbia, Mo. manager Jeff Echelmeier watched Durley attract attention while the player was standing on a porch near a path to the cafeteria.

"About four teams came through, and everyone wanted to know how tall he was," Echelmeier said. "He said 'About 6-foot-8' about 40 times in a row."

He's still growing, too: Durley only shared the tallest-player designation last year. Series sponsors who shower players with free equipment didn't have new spikes readily available for Durley, who wears size 19 shoes.

Dhahran coach Tom Timoney said Durley takes the attention in stride.

"He's just a great kid," Timoney said while watching an infield practice. "Very good-natured."

A little out of breath after running sprints with his teammates, the mild-mannered Durley didn't say much after the practice.

Baseball isn't necessarily his favorite sport.

"It's kind of hard, because I like basketball," he said. "When it's offseason for baseball, it's basketball. When it's offseason for basketball, it's baseball."

Courtesy of GENARO C. ARMAS, Associated Press.