The Fourth of July is over, but the Valley White Sox still feel the nationalism.
The club baseball team, comprised of players from the region, has qualified for the under-15 Amateur Athletic Union national championship in Millington, Tenn., the training site of the U.S. national team from 1986-96.
For the second time in three years, the Valley White Sox will take part in the tournament, which begins July 31 with approximately 35 teams.
In 1997, the White Sox finished second in the under-13 national championship, but several players left for different club teams last year. As a result, the White Sox failed to qualify for the under-14 national championship.
This year, the 1997 team has been reunited, and the focus is on winning a national title.
"We said we had to get them all back. . . . We are better together than we are apart," Manager Al Zakosek said.
Several players, including Raul (Ziggy) Campos and Jose Carrillo of Birmingham High and Jamie Mah of Sylmar, played varsity baseball last season as freshman, a fact that could provide dividends.
At the very least, the Valley White Sox get to play at the former facility of the U.S. national team, which now practices in Tucson.
"[Our coaches] keep telling us that it's a nice field," Campos said. "Everybody's excited for it."
Other players from the region on the team are Abel Pulido of Van Nuys, Danny Mata of Kennedy, Brian Tabura, Michael Garcia and Alex Chavez of Sylmar, Danny Dominguez of Chatsworth, Chris Zakosek of Granada Hills--the manager's son--and Felipe Gallo of Alemany.
Crystl Bustos is making the most of her bid to play in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Bustos, 21, selected in June to play for the USA Gold national team this summer, went six for 10 with two doubles, three home runs and seven runs batted in in her first three games of the International Canada Cup in Surrey, British Columbia.
Her three-run home run in the sixth inning Monday broke a 3-3 tie against the Japanese national team.
The shortstop, whose play has forced former Olympian Dr. Dot Richardson to move to second base, is tearing up the competition.
But that's nothing new.
Bustos, a 1995 graduate of Canyon High, is a two-time national junior college player of the year and the 1998 Women's Pro Softball League most valuable player.
Bustos received her second invitation to try out for the national team this summer after passing on a previous invitation because of prior commitments.
Competing against the nation's best hitters, including UCLA's home run record holder, Stacey Nuveman, Bustos captured the inaugural National Team Festival home run derby title with four home runs.
This summer has been all softball and air travel for Bustos, who is a member of the WPSL's Akron Racers.
After the Canada Cup championship game July 11, Bustos will catch a red-eye flight to Florida for the WPSL All-Star game. Then she'll return to Akron for 10 days before heading back to Winnipeg, Canada, for the Pan American Games from July 23 to August 7.
The Renegades, an 18-and-under girls' volleyball club team, tied for fifth place in the Junior National Championships, a finish that most teams would celebrate.
Not the Renegades.
With aspirations riding high, the Renegades, who finished second last year, lost in four games to the Nebraska Juniors in the quarterfinals.
"I think we got a little tired at the end," said Brooke Niles, who graduated from Calabasas High last month.
The Renegades finished in a three-way tie for first in their pool and defeated Asics Nova in a one-game tiebreaker to advance to the gold level.
But they lost in the quarterfinals.
Niles, Krystal McFarland of Buena and Courtney Guerra and Teresa Russell of Royal were four of the Renegades' six starters.
Staff writers Mike Bresnahan and Paige A. Leech contributed to this notebook.