The champs are in the house!
Chula Vista’s Park View Little League Blue Bombers have returned safely to base and Southwestern College was the landing zone for their raucous homecoming after the homer-happy squad blasted its way to the 2009 Little League World Series championship.
Thousands of fans packed Devore Stadium Monday night to welcome home the city’s newly famous baseball stars. As soon as word of their accomplishment reached home, plans for a surprise welcoming at SWC began churning.
Audio personality Javier “The X-Man” served as the evening’s master of ceremonies thanks to fast work by SWC’s Melissa Abeyta, the public information officer intern.
Javier said he asked “no questions” and felt honored to be involved. He said the Little Leaguers were “focused” and “believed in themselves” throughout the series.
The Blue Bombers tore through their competition with all the explosiveness and intensity of an elite squadron of fighter aircraft. Players hit 16 home runs during their run to the title. Their victory at the Little League World Series marked the first time that a team from District 42 had even reached the tournament. The Western Division champion Bombers defeated Asia-Pacific juggernauts Chinese Taipei, 6-3, in an exciting final.
Excitement overwhelmed exhaustion when they players and their coaches drove onto SWC’s main campus in a black limo bus. South Bay beauty queens Ashley Horner, Lynette Negron and Holly Angeles escorted the young men across the field to the stage while network news crew documented the celebration.
Actor-comedian George Lopez had promised to reward each player with a brand new iTouch. Lopez not only kept that promise, he personally showed up to deliver them.
“There’s nothing like that innocence,” said Lopez. “Playing hard—not playing for money—that’s a metaphor for what life should be.”
Lopez said he played Little League as a child and described the experience as “pure and simple.”
Alex Marmolejo, vice president of Park View Little League, said the players have experienced “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“You’re only 12 once,” said Marmolejo. “They’re like little rock stars right now.”
Marmolejo said the players had love for and love the game and always took the time to sign autographs and greet fans.
Coach Rick Ramirez, who once played third base for the SWC Jaguars, said he was proud of his team.
“Regardless of what we did to help them reach their goal, it doesn’t happen without the kids,” he said.
Another 10,000-plus people attended Friday’s rally organized by the city of Chula Vista. Former Padres first baseman Phil Nevin, 1976 Cy Young Award winner Randy Jones and Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox were among the politicians and celebrities on hand to pay tribute.
Jerry Bartow, SWC’s veteran baseball coach, said he was waiting for the players to grow up a little more.
“They might make it to my team,” he said with a grin.
Congressman Bob Filner had some exciting news for the team Monday night. The Bombers will be flown to Washington D.C. to meet President Barack Obama, courtesy of Southwest Airlines.
SWC Superintendent Dr. Raj K. Chopra was on hand both Monday night at the reception and Friday at the rally. He said SWC was honored to be able to support the team by hosting two major events on behalf of the community.
“We are all very proud of you,” said Chopra.