As soon as the final out of the 2013 Little League Baseball World Series championship game was confirmed by the umpires Sunday, emotions poured out of the stands from the families of the players of the Japan Region team, which was crowned the champ.
Parents embraced each other in tears of joy as many said they were proud of their players after an exciting game.
The father of Ryusei Hirooka said his reaction to the win was “saiko,” which he explained meant “ultimate or best.”
On the other side of the stadium, the West Region’s reaction was far more muted after its loss than during the game. The two teams battled it out in a close competition, which Japan won 6-4.
Nevertheless, the parents and families of the Chula Vista, Calif., team said, win or lose, they’re proud of their players.
It’s been an incredible journey for the mother of player Charly Peterson, Wendy Peterson, 34, of Chula Vista. She’s been with her son every step of the way, and her bag displays each game’s colorful security tags since regionals.
“Today’s blue one is the last one,” she exclaimed before the game.
She sat with her friend and the mother of player Giancarlo Cortez, Ismena Castellon, 40, also of Chula Vista. Both had painted their nails the team colors of yellow and green and wore matching beads. They shook pom-poms and called out support throughout the game.
“As a parent, it’s very exciting, very stressful. We feel every pitch, every emotion the players feel,” Castellon said.
“We’re more nervous than the kids. The kids are so calm,” Peterson said.
Their responses to their kids were the same, win or lose.
“We’re so proud of you, no matter what,” Castellon said. “If they weren’t amazing, they wouldn’t be here.”
The kids worked hard to get to be No. 1 in the U.S. in Little League.
Kevin Bateman, 48, of San Diego, Calif., said his son, left-fielder Kevin Bateman II, 12, trained hard to get here. In boot camp-like training, the player would run, bike and lift weights. He can do 800 to 1,000 push-ups in sets of 50, said his dad, who also is his Little League coach back home.
Although the team lost, it’s not the end of the road for his son.
“It’s been a great ride,” Bateman said. “He will have a lot more opportunities, other dreams, and he’ll do all he can to accomplish them.”
For Apryl Gaines, 41, of San Diego, the journey has been incredible.
“It’s very exciting watching them. They’ve grown since they started playing, they’ve matured,” said Gaines, whose son is left-fielder Michael Gaines, 13.
Before the games, her daughter, Cheyenne Gaines, 15, said she feels like she does right before a track meet.
“I feel like I’m a part of the game,” Cheyenne said.
To her brother, she said, “I love you very much. I’m proud of you no matter what.”
Mark Archer, 39, of Chula Vista, called it an “emotional game.”
“It went back and forth. … The pitching kept us off balance,” he said. Nonetheless, “It was a great run for us.” His son is catcher Patrick Archer, 12.
John Haley, 50, of Chula Vista, whose son is right-fielder Dominic Haley, 12, called the team “well disciplined” and “well coached.”
Ronne Pietila-Wiggs, 43, of Chula Vista, said the Tokyo team put on a terrific game.
“Japan’s team was excellent, very disciplined and did a great job. Our boys fought hard. It just wasn’t our day today,” she said. Her son is second-baseman Micah Pietila-Wiggs, 12.
As she goes back home, she’s most looking forward to eating good Mexican food and spending time with her son, as he hasn’t been home since July 31.
It wasn’t from a lack of support that Chula Vista lost, as Rod Caicedo, 50, of San Diego, ran with Erwin Mora, player Nick Mora’s dad, urging the crowd to cheer with chants and unbridled excitement.
By the end of the game, Mora’s voice was hoarse – “throat lozenges the whole way” – but neither he nor Caicedo was discouraged.
“We’re the U.S. champs, you can’t ask for more. To be considered the best in the U.S. and No. 2 in the world is something to hold your head up high for,” Caicedo said.
“We battled the whole game, we didn’t give up, and that’s the most important part – we didn’t give up,” Caicedo said. “Japan’s an excellent team, (our team) played the best team in the world, the defending champ.”
Mora said his team was “lightning in a bottle,” and “they played their hearts out.” As the team regroups, a party awaited them at their hotel.
Most disappointing? “I gotta go back to work,” Mora said.
Dan Peterman, 82, of Laporte, has come to the games almost every year since 1994. This year, he was rooting for the California team. With him was friend Clarence Geiswite, 69, of Danville, who has come to the World Series for 17 years, and used to play Little League in Montgomery.
Geiswite didn’t care who won. “I just want a good game, that’s all.”