They crowded six deep around the entire field. As smoke rose from cigarettes and portable barbecues, the Little League fans milled outside the snack stand and strained for a glimpse of what could be a historic run.
It was a chilly night Tuesday at Stearns Park when the all-star team from the Long Beach Little League completed its sweep of the District 38 Tournament with a 7-0 victory over Los Altos. It was the first of four tournaments it must win to return to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Long Beach, which was awarded the series crown last September when it was discovered that the Philippines had used ringers in a 15-4 victory in the championship game, is attempting to become only the second team to defend its title.
On Sunday night at 7, Long Beach will play at Highlander Field in Hacienda Heights in the Section 4 Tournament against Continental Little League of La Palma.
The celebration was subdued Tuesday night after Long Beach won its third consecutive district title. Sandy Lewis, wife of team manager Larry Lewis, held up a "Threepeat" sign, but an attempt to start the cheer quickly died and there was little other fanfare.
Sean Burroughs, son of Coach Jeff Burroughs, received a warm ovation. Playing in his final game at Stearns Park, he pitched a one-hitter and struck out 14 batters. Brady Werner, who hit a grand slam, also drew cheers.
With all the local hype that has been heaped on these 12-year-old boys the last 10 days, most of the crowd that crammed into Stearns Park had expected Long Beach to win. Even the players took the accomplishment routinely.
"The kids could have been a little more enthusiastic about it," Larry Lewis said while cleaning out the dugout. "I guess it was kind of expected that we would do well."
Lewis expressed concern last week that some people had created a circus atmosphere around the team and were taking a return trip to Williamsport for granted.
"Only four of these guys were on the team that went to the World Series last year," he said. "It's a long way yet."
The highlight of the evening appeared to be a drawing that followed the closing ceremonies. The pot was $820. When a red ticket was drawn from the estimated 6,500 tickets that were sold for 25 cents apiece, a large groan went up from people holding yellow and green tickets.
A tourist from Germany, who said she was watching her first baseball game, held the winning ducat.