Headed on a road never traveled

Less than 24 hours after winning the Western Regional championship, the Ocean View Majors All-Star team packed its bags and headed out Sunday on its dream summer vacation: a trip to Williamsport, Pa.

It's a road the league, nor any District 62 team, had yet traveled.

It was destiny, as Ocean View Manager Jeff Pratto said he had thought to himself after his son, Nick, started Ocean View's memorable final at-bat in San Bernardino with a triple. That thought became reality just one pitch later, when Steven Kotkosky clobbered a towering home run in front of an announced crowd of 13,870 that forever changed the course of the game, and Ocean View's future.

"When Steven hits the ball like that, you know it's gone," Ocean View coach Tony Cianca said during the postgame celebration.

Ocean View begins World Series play Friday against Cumberland American Little League of Cumberland, R.I. Cumberland won the New England regional last weekend. Game time is noon and can be seen live on ESPN.

"I am so excited for District 62," said Mark Groh, who has been the chief administrator for the district the past 10 years. "I am so thrilled for the Ocean View families and the players themselves. Heck, I'm excited to be going. I've been involved with Little League since 1980 and I've never been to Williamsport.

"It's going to be a trip of a lifetime. It definitely was their (Ocean View's) time to win it."

Ocean View seemed destined for the Little League World Series well before Saturday's triumph. A trip East looked as though it could be in the cards, what with District 62 set to be well-represented in Williamsport by what took place earlier this year.

Two volunteers within the district — Karen Smith, the 2011 player agent and a snack bar representative at Fountain Valley Little League, and staff umpire Lee Batterman — already had reservations set for Williamsport. Smith is being honored during the tournament as the 2011 Little League Mom of the Year by Little League International. Batterman will work in a variety of positions as a game umpire. He'll be working the basepaths at the World Series for the first time.

Groh believed District 62 to be the first in the history of the World Series to send a team, umpire and player agent to Williamsport in the same year. Scott Rosenberg, director of public relations for Little League International in Williamsport, said Tuesday that he could "not say with certainty," if three representatives from the same district have been in Williamsport at the same time.

The "Mom of the Year" award was established in 1991. The Little League World Series is celebrating its 65th year.

In addition to being honored during World Series festivities, Smith also was acknowledged on the field prior to the start of Saturday's Western Regional final.

. "I'm really happy for Kathy and Lee," Groh said. "It's really great for District 62 to see all this come together in the same year."

So, in the league's fourth try in San Bernardino, Ocean View finally was able to take a victory lap around Al Houghton Stadium. It had come close to making that run on two occasions in the previous 11 regional tournaments, in 2000 and last year. On both occasions, those teams came up just short.

"Ocean View has come close to winning here before and we're happy to finally do it," said winning pitcher Hagen Danner, who gave a dominant performance and also singled on offense. "We're relieved, too."

Hank Conger of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim was a member of Ocean View's 2000 All-Star team that fell two runs short of reaching Williamsport. Conger, who is playing for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City, said he was keeping track of Saturday's Western Regional final and missed the start of a team meeting prior to the Bees' home game Saturday against the Omaha.

"I was trying to find the game on TV but still made it to the meeting," he said with a chuckle.

Conger said he found out that Ocean View had won only after Salt Lake City's 11-6 loss to the Storm Chasers through texts sent by his Huntington Beach High baseball coach, Benji Medure, and former Ocean View All-Stars teammate James Kang, who later starred at Ocean View High and was drafted last year by the Boston Red Sox.

"It was really awesome to hear that they had won," Conger said Tuesday from Salt Lake City. "I was just stoked, especially after last year's team came so close to going to the World Series.

"This brings back a lot of memories of when we almost made it to Williamsport. It's still fresh in my mind, especially when I turn on the TV to watch one of the games. A couple of guys from our All-Star team reminisce about our run, especially at this time of the year. I'm really happy for this group of kids."

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