While most players are sluggish beneath the sun's sweltering heat, Coach Victor Nogueras and the players on his Puerto Rican 18-and-underbaseball team have hardly broken a sweat.


During the squad's 8-4 victory over Pennsylvania yesterday, careful inspection of the players' foreheads -- even that of equipment-laden catcher Eric Cotto -- revealed little, if any perspiration.

"Right now, I think it's what, 91 degrees?" asked Nogueras, standing in the dugout during the game. "This is like it is in Puerto Rico all the time. When it's 89, 90 or 91 degrees, we like this. It might affectthe play of the other teams, but not our team. This is no problem for us."

No sweat, huh?

"No, because we are very accustomed to this type of weather," said Jose Massa, 18. "We have been playing in (weather) like this since we were very small."

And if you ask pitcher-right-fielder Jose Albino, the Young Talent squad will win the Continental Amateur Baseball Association's 18-and-under World Series the same way.

"I played in World Series once in California when I was 12, and in Pennsylvania when I was 14, and we won both of them," saidAlbino, 18. "I want to see us win the championship here, too. I'm just waiting for it."

Waiting has become an unwelcome theme of the team's trip.

Shortly after splitting two games with Fahardo in a best-of-three championship series of the Puerto Rican Connie Mack League Sunday -- a series to be completed Aug. 4 or 5 -- the team boarded a New York City-bound, four-hour flight at 10:30 p.m.

From there, Nogueras had hoped to take a five-hour bus trip to the team's destination, the Econo Lodge on U.S. 1 in Laurel, where it was scheduled to arrive at 4:30 a.m. Monday.

But the five-hour trip turned into a 20-hour odyssey for the 17 players and four coaches.

"The boys stayed awake the whole time while we arranged to get the two big vans that got us here. We didn't arrive until 5 a.m. Tuesday," said Nogueras.

The delay forced Monday's scheduled games against Korea and Florida to be pushed back to tomorrow. The players say it also affected the team's play Tuesday against Missouri (a 7-3 loss) and in an unfinished game with tournament host Linthicum Post 289.

A downpour delayed the start of Puerto Rico's game with Linthicum, which was tied at 5 when it was stopped 10 minutes before Joe Cannon Stadium's 11 p.m. curfew. Tournament organizers were still trying to reschedule that game as of late yesterday evening.

"I think all the guys were tired and needed sleep for the first two games, but from now on, I think we'll be OK. We'll end up in the winning bracket," said Nogueras, whoseclub played Tennessee last night at 7 -- after The Anne Arundel County Sun's deadline.

Since Tuesday night, however, the Young Talent players have come alive in more ways than on the playing field. They've made their presence known to fast-food restaurants and other merchants both in Laurel and Anne Arundel County.

In the first three games, Nogueras had yet to use his best pitcher, Massa, a 6-foot, 184-pounder who recorded four saves in his freshman season at Cleveland State this past spring.

"If we are prepared, we can beat any team," Massa said. "We want to show that we've got players who are as good as those on the American teams."

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