By Doug Curlee | Editor at Large
The Allied Gardens Little League 8- to 10-year-old All Star team’s march to a fifth-place finish in Southern California was more than just 13 kids playing, and winning, games together.
It was a bonding experience for the youngsters — one that will likely make them friends for all their lives.
In order to build the team chemistry that took them that far in the tournament, the players practically lived together for 52 days.
They ate meals together. They hiked our Fortuna North and South trails in Mission Trails Regional Park. They climbed the 5,600-foot Cuyamaca Peak. They had swimming parties. You name it, and they did it together.
And yes, they also practiced baseball — a lot.
All of that enabled them to sweep the Little League District 33 title on July 5 — then go on to win the Section 6 title on July 11, before heading up to Palmdale for the state championships. Over the tournament, they compiled a 10-win, two-loss record, finally being eliminated by Fontana Little League.
Looking back on it, the players know they have nothing to be ashamed of at all.
Catcher Joey Famalaro won’t forget it. “It’s pretty amazing we made it that far,” he said. “It was fun.” Ellic Gilbert, first baseman, thought they might have done better. “It wasn’t that hard,” he added.
Third baseman Antonio Sanchez says they earned it. “It was a lot of work, but I’m glad we did it,” he said.
Team parents were all in on this one They set up a GoFundMe page to defray hotel and travel expenses, and coach Pete Famalaro said the response was overwhelming. The team also got lots of support from other leagues in their District 33 family.
They could have done without the 100-plus-degree heat in Palmdale, but admit everyone had to suffer through that.
So what are the players doing now, with the league season over?
Most of them are taking part in a small, very informal travel league, often playing on Friday nights or on weekends, just around San Diego County.
They all know they’ve got a couple of years left in Little League, and they have their eyes fixed on the possibility of pursuing the holy grail, if you will, of Little League baseball — that trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania for the Little League World Series.
You never know.
—Doug Curlee is Editor at Large. Reach him at email@example.com.