The third-best Little League baseball team in the world is returning home to the Petaluma on Monday afternoon.
The Petaluma National team, for the U.S. championship to a team from Tennessee on Saturday after an amazing 10-run comeback at the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania, landed at San Francisco International Airport late Monday morning, Petaluma Little League president Andrew Lackey said. Dressed in their team hats and yellow jerseys, the players arrived at the airport's Terminal 1 on an AirTran flight.
The players and coaches are then planning to head to a celebratory gathering at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds at 175 Fairgrounds Drive in Petaluma at about 1 p.m., Lackey said. Manager Eric Smith might briefly address the crowd, Lackey said, but the real celebration of the team's achievement will be a in Petaluma starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2.
Trevor Tomei, who said he has been coaching this same group of boys for the past several years, had trouble putting into words what the team had accomplished.
"It's hard to explain," he said. "The things they've been through the last month, I don't know if there are answers for it. They're legends."
He said that while they were at the World Series, he made sure the players were aware of all the support they were getting back in Petaluma, where viewing parties were held and fundraisers were planned to pay players' parents' travel expenses.
Tomei said his advice to the players has been to appreciate everything they are experiencing.
"We're reminding them every day that they need to take it in," he said. "They'll probably get more out of it 10 years down the road. They'll probably realize what they went through."
Pitcher and first baseman Andrew White, 12, was happy to be home. "I miss sleeping in my bed," he said.
Quiton Gago, 12, who also pitches and plays first base, said he was taken aback when people would ask for his autograph at the games. He said he hadn't yet come up with a unique way to sign his name, so he created a signature on the spot.
He was excited about the Hummer ride back to the North Bay. "I'm psyched," Gago said. "It will be awesome."
Most of the players are students at Petaluma Junior High, and will head back to school this week.
Petaluma National rallied from a 15-5 deficit Saturday to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the undefeated Goodletsville, Tenn., team responded with nine runs in the top of the seventh inning and won 24-16.
In a third-place game before the world championship on Sunday, Petaluma National defeated a team from Panama, 12-4. The Tennessee team lost 12-2 to the Kitasuna Little League team of Tokyo, Japan, in the world championship game Sunday. The Japan team was undefeated in its five Little League World Series games.
— Bay City News Service