World Series the Last Stop on Long Journey for San Pedro's Fans

Times Staff Writer

They sat in the steamy sunshine with faces as red as the San Pedro T-shirts they wore.

Some took red-eye flights and others broiled on the highway as they made their way to the Little League World Series.

For parents and supporters of Eastview Little League of San Pedro, this is the last stop on a long journey that began 18 games ago, spanning two divisional championships and three pressure-packed weeks.

One loss here and a team is out of the running for a championship, so the 100 or so San Pedro fans who watched Eastview's 14-hit, 12-5 first-round win over Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday rooted as it might be their last game.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said Cheryl Harper. Her son, Tim, was the winning pitcher, despite fits of wildness. She would take the victory anyway she could get it, said Cheryl. It was a birthday present for Tim, who turned 13 Tuesday.

Many of the parents had been looking forward to the finals even before they knew San Pedro would qualify.

"I wouldn't miss it for the world," said Bill Sulentor, whose son, Joe, plays left field and went two for four at the plate Wednesday.

Others agreed: "It's been a little hectic getting here, but it's worth it," said Emily Danelo. Her son, Joey, is a reserve.

This is a mixed crowd, much as one would expect from a city as ethnically diverse as San Pedro. There are stevedores and businessman, housewives and working women.

"We've got them all," Bill Sulentor said.."

The common bond isn't really baseball. Baseball is just the vehicle that brought them together. The strength of this group, many of whom met five years ago when their children entered T-ball, is what league President Gary Miley calls the city "at the end."

It is the uniqueness of San Pedro, most of them agreed, that drives them to sit and sweat together in the hot Pennsylvania sun that bakes the bleachers of Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

"Us Pedro guys stick together," said Eastview Coach Nick Lusic, a painting contractor.

"It is the community that makes us strong," said Miley, a longshoreman, his forehead bedecked with perspiration. "Somebody told me once of San Pedro that you either live here, work here, know somebody here or you are lost. It's a tight town."

It has been financially difficult for some to attend. Miley has not put in the number of hours he is expected to work at the docks, so he expects to be docked pay.

Sulentor says he'll "be working a few weekends" when he gets back from this trip.

Lusic has his painting business to worry about and Manager Joe Dileva, an insurance agent, has clients to see.

But the city's interest has been there.

"A lot of people in the community have really supported us," Lusic said.

Sulentor, a real estate lawyer, pointed to the interest each of the parents has in the kids:

"We all know baseball and we all love kids. We have lots of fathers, all ex-jocks, and they work with their kids."

Cheryl Harper likes the fact that everyone knows each other.

"Somewhere down the line these kids will have all played each other in baseball. San Pedro is very close-knit."

So close, in fact, that Frank North flew to New York from San Pedro before coming here to pick up his son, Jimmy, who splits time between his father in California and his mother in New York.

"Jimmy goes to school with some of these kids when he is living with me in San Pedro," he said. "He wanted to be here."

So close that Elizabeth and Rick Roderick, parents of Victoria Brucker, the slugging girl first baseman, found a way to get here when they didn't think they could afford it. They drove, with their three children, arriving about an hour before game time Wednesday.

So close that Gary Sloan, father of the son by the same name who went two for three with a home run against Tampa, fought his fear of flying to get here.

"I was terrified," he said of the flight.

But he made it. And so have the others. When they sit together, in their red shirts, they meld.

There is nowhere else they would like to be right now--unless it is back home in San Pedro where the cool sea breeze can wash away memories of a steamy Pennsylvania afternoon.

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