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All Hail the Boys of Summer : Northridge Little League team represented a community, and a nation, so very well

In the end, it wasn’t to be. The boys from Northridge, who also happened to be representing all of the United States in a dramatic final game of the Little League World Series on Saturday, were defeated by a team from Maracaibo, Venezuela, 4-3.

Northridge wound up battling not just a tough opponent but miserable weather, including a thunderstorm that delayed the game for three hours. “The rain really got us,” shortstop Matt Fisher said later. “We had the momentum, but after we stopped, they scored right away and turned it around.”

But this is one case in which the losing team came away with more than the proverbial honor in defeat. It can also look back with great pride. For this is one group of young athletes you just know is going to bounce back from adversity. After what they and their families have already been through this year, a loss even in a big game is easy to keep in perspective.

For, as the entire nation now knows, this is a team that came together on the Little League fields of the northern San Fernando Valley just weeks after the most devastating earthquake to hit Southern California in a generation rumbled through its community. Many of the players on the Northridge team were dislocated from their homes by the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake. One has yet to return to his former home. That is why so many people throughout Los Angeles invested so much hope in the Earthquake Kids, as they came to be called. Their ability to play hard and play well despite some awesome distractions were an inspiration to an entire region.

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What also made the Northridge team special to fans outside Southern California this year was the fact that they reminded us all of the sheer joy of baseball in a summer when the major league version of the game has been shut down by a prolonged strike that shows no sign of ending soon.

Baseball fans hope not, but the Little League World Series may be the only World Series to be played as the 1994 season winds down. But what better way to revel in the youthful innocence of the American pastime than to have the nation rooting for a group of boys playing the game for the fun of it?

Northridge and the rest of Los Angeles took quite a hit back in January. But they bounced back, and the Northridge Little League team is an apt symbol of the talent, grit and determination that helped accomplish the task. No matter the final score, they are winners in our book and we are proud of them.


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