In the Pipeline: A modest part of baseball history

"Oh, I almost forgot — we flew up to Sacramento to meet Gov. Brown, too."

So chuckled Ocean View Little League manager Jeff Pratto to me recently as we spoke about the head-spinning series of events that have rolled out in the wake of his team's recent Little League Baseball World Series championship.

Yes, there was just a thrilling seven-game major league contest between Texas and St. Louis. But here in Huntington Beach, Ocean View's feat is still the one people are talking about, and no doubt will continue to remember for generations.

I was curious about the afterglow of such an accomplishment and what's it's been like for manager, coaches and players alike since their reentry into the real world of school, work and life. As calm and relaxed as he approached the series, Pratto recounted what it's been like at home since his son Nick's winning hit in the final game.

"Nick and I and a couple of the other boys had a slightly different experience from the rest of the team," he told me. "The rest of the guys came straight home from Williamsport, Pa. But we took Nick, Hagen Danner and Anthony Martinez up to the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown to play another tournament after the series.

"Driving up there, we pulled over in a little roadside town in Pennsylvania, looking for a place to throw our trash away. Four ladies in a bank saw our uniforms and ran out to take our picture.

"At gas stations, restaurants, all along the way, people approached us for pictures and autographs if they saw our hats or anything. At the fields in Cooperstown, the teams are kept in little 'chicken coop' cages near the field and were constantly mobbed. In the airports, so many people came over to me to share their own personal Little League stories. People all over the country seemed really affected by our victory."

Then there was the welcome home.

"Our house was toilet-papered, of course," Pratto laughed. "And there were banners hanging up. It was great. Then the events began."

Did they ever.

"The Anaheim Angels hosted us, and that was terrific. Hank Conger, who also played in our league, gave all the kids Oakley sunglasses and Trinity bats that had been made special for everyone."

Then there was Dodger Stadium.

"The Dodgers had us on the field to watching batting practice with both teams for two hours before the game. It was also Tommy Lasorda's birthday, so he was there with the kids. They had official Dodgers jerseys made for all of us with our names on the back.

"Kellogg's was there, and they presented us with a special box of Frosted Flakes featuring us on the package. But the best part was, right before the game, for 20 minutes they let me hit infield practice to the kids on the diamond. That was just incredible."

Both the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks honored the team in pregame ceremonies.

And there was Disneyland.

"Disneyland rarely does this kind of parade for outsiders, where they bring out all the floats, the old-fashioned open car that we coaches got to ride in and everything else," Pratto explained. "It's just what they did for the Lakers. Tons of people were there. We got to go on rides with front-of-the-line passes all day — just an unforgettable experience."

There was an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" And the aforementioned trip to Sacramento.

"California state Assemblyman Jim Silva, Sen. Tom Harman and some of the other local politicians had us travel to Sacramento for an exclusive tour of the Capitol. We went in the chambers of the speaker of the Assembly, a very rare opportunity, and then met Gov. Brown in his office. And we were brought onto the House and Senate floors during session and acknowledged by both bodies."

The Huntington Beach City Council honored the team; there was a Main Street parade and more in the works, including several holiday parades and more promotional appearances.

The championship, while already a fond memory for many, is very much a part of everyone's life on the team. But lest anyone worry that it go to their heads, Pratto has no such concerns — perhaps because that just wouldn't go along with his leadership style.

"They just roll with it, and it hasn't clouded how they look at the world. They're very level-headed kids that simply achieved something special together by working as a team."

I am currently writing a book about baseball history in Orange County. It begins with a young Walter Johnson throwing hard in the Olinda (now Brea) oil fields in the early 1900s before entering Fullerton High School. And it will end with the story of the Ocean View Little League Baseball World Series championship. They are now, after all, an important part of our baseball history.

Modest as they are, though, I doubt they'd ever admit it.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at

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