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In the Pipeline: A modest part of baseball history

November 09, 2011|By Chris Epting
  • Tommy Lasorda hands out personalized jerseys to the Ocean View Little League team at Dodger Stadium.
Tommy Lasorda hands out personalized jerseys to the Ocean… (Courtesy Wendy…)

"Oh, I almost forgot — we flew up to Sacramento to meet Gov. Brown, too."

So chuckled Ocean View Little League manager Jeff Pratto to me recently as we spoke about the head-spinning series of events that have rolled out in the wake of his team's recent Little League Baseball World Series championship.

Yes, there was just a thrilling seven-game major league contest between Texas and St. Louis. But here in Huntington Beach, Ocean View's feat is still the one people are talking about, and no doubt will continue to remember for generations.

I was curious about the afterglow of such an accomplishment and what's it's been like for manager, coaches and players alike since their reentry into the real world of school, work and life. As calm and relaxed as he approached the series, Pratto recounted what it's been like at home since his son Nick's winning hit in the final game.

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"Nick and I and a couple of the other boys had a slightly different experience from the rest of the team," he told me. "The rest of the guys came straight home from Williamsport, Pa. But we took Nick, Hagen Danner and Anthony Martinez up to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown to play another tournament after the series.

"Driving up there, we pulled over in a little roadside town in Pennsylvania, looking for a place to throw our trash away. Four ladies in a bank saw our uniforms and ran out to take our picture.

"At gas stations, restaurants, all along the way, people approached us for pictures and autographs if they saw our hats or anything. At the fields in Cooperstown, the teams are kept in little 'chicken coop' cages near the field and were constantly mobbed. In the airports, so many people came over to me to share their own personal Little League stories. People all over the country seemed really affected by our victory."

Then there was the welcome home.

"Our house was toilet-papered, of course," Pratto laughed. "And there were banners hanging up. It was great. Then the events began."

Did they ever.

"The Anaheim Angels hosted us, and that was terrific. Hank Conger, who also played in our league, gave all the kids Oakley sunglasses and Trinity bats that had been made special for everyone."

Then there was Dodger Stadium.

"The Dodgers had us on the field to watching batting practice with both teams for two hours before the game. It was also Tommy Lasorda's birthday, so he was there with the kids. They had official Dodgers jerseys made for all of us with our names on the back.

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