The Petaluma, Calif., Little League all-stars have been playing since mid-June. They have not been home in more than three weeks.
One would think they are tired of baseball these days. One would be wrong.
"At the parade someone threw me a squishy ball so we use that and a flip-flop and play baseball in the rooms," pitcher Logan Douglas said.
"That's what they do in their spare time," manager Eric Smith said. "They play baseball."
And they play it great.
Petaluma concluded a historic season in impressive fashion Sunday afternoon at Lamade Stadium, thumping Panama, 12-4, in the consolation game and finishing third in the Little League Baseball World Series. Douglas threw five solid innings to earn the win and Bradley Smith went 2 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs.
"I was hoping it would be in the (world) championship, but finishing in third place is good," Bradley Smith said. "It was really fun."
West Region champ Petaluma's performance was especially impressive, coming just 16 hours after it lost 24-16 to Tennessee in seven innings in one of the wildest Little League games ever played. Petaluma overcame a 10-run, sixth-inning deficit to force extra innings but Southeast champ Tennessee scored nine runs in the seventh to win it.
Instead of being fazed, though, California led from the first inning on Sunday and made one more big statement about why it is so good.
"I wasn't sure what would happen, but I was happy with their approach once the game started," Eric Smith said. "We had a team gathering (Saturday) night with the parents and I told everyone how proud I was of the effort they've put forth all season long and that one game would not effect how I thought about them."
Petaluma became the first team from its city to reach regionals, let alone the Little League World Series. The West champions captivated the San Francisco community and when they tied Saturdays' game in the sixth inning, thousands of Giants fans roared in applause at Pac Bell Park.
"We've been hearing that everybody has been freaking out," Douglas said. "I don't know what's going to happen, but we'll wait and see."
Petaluma players and coaches can expect the royal treatment. The team endeared itself to its community not just because it won, but through how it played.
The stunning comeback Saturday was just the latest in a string of stirring comebacks this summer by a team that won 24 all-star games. Petaluma won its Northern California state championship after trailing San Ramon by five runs in the fifth inning and three in the sixth.
Petaluma won two regional games on walk-off hits, then won three straight elimination games at the Series, including beating New Jersey on Danny Marzo's walk-off home run. Whatever the obstacle, it always was ready to conquer it.
And even after finishing third in the world it still is not satisfied. The players are ready to tackle new challenges
"I will encourage them to take this experience and make it the peak of their season," Eric Smith said. "It's great to be here but you want to reach for higher goals."
Petaluma scored eight runs in its first two innings Sunday, building a comfortable 8-2 lead. Going back to Saturday's game, Petaluma had scored 19 runs in its last four innings at that point. The West champions scored 28 runs and pounded out 23 hits in less than 24 hours.
"California is a great team," Tennessee manager Joey Hale said. "I've said it before and I'll say it again, they are the best hitting team we've faced bar none, top to bottom. Everyone of them is dangerous."
After the final out was recorded Sunday, Petaluma fans rose to their feet and gave their heroes a rousing ovation. The players then filed out of the dugout and returned the favor.
One journey was complete, but another one will start. When a team is as determined as this one it always is seeking more.
"We'll take some time off, but if we wait too long, the kids will be pressuring me to start playing again," said Smith, who also coaches Petaluma's fall team. "They'll be ready to go before me."
This is a team that truly never stops.