Torrance Had South Bay Fans Cheering as They Took the Field at This Year’s Little League World Series
- Written byQuinn Roberts
- Photos courtesy ofLittle League Baseball and Softball
The cardiac kids. That became the nickname for the Torrance Little League All-Stars throughout the summer as the team navigated its way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Torrance was one of just 16 teams in the United States to make the trip.
The 11- and 12-year-olds easily advanced through their district tournament, but they came near the brink of elimination in both the Southern California and West Region championships. Torrance lost its opener, forcing the team to win five consecutive elimination games to make it to the final. Torrance then won twice to advance to the West Regional for the first time in its Little League history.
In the regional, which was held in San Bernardino, Torrance again lost its opening game but managed to navigate its way to Williamsport by winning in extra innings against Nevada. It then knocked off Utah and a team from Northern California to punch its ticket. It marked the first time since 1994 that a team from Los Angeles County made it to Williamsport.
“A lot of times we would fall behind early, only to come back—which showed how special this team is. I’ve never been a part of a team like that,” says manager Javier Chavez, who got to experience everything with his son Christian. “The kids like having fun. No one is too serious and they are all very easygoing, which I think helped them on the field. When they were down runs, they would push each other.”
Part of the reason the team had so much success and chemistry is because most of them had known each other or been playing baseball together since they were 4 years old. “I think our bond was the biggest reason for our success,” says Dominic Golia. “I originally decided not to play, but when some of the guys on the team talked to me about how much fun we would have and how important I would be to the team, I decided to play.”
It wasn’t just the come-from-behind wins that made getting to Williamsport difficult. The entire coaching staff and team had to test negative for COVID-19 before every game during their three-month run to make sure they all could continue to play.
“It was a grind because of the scheduling and testing, but once we made it to Williamsport all of that faded away,” says Javier. “Our goal was to help develop all of the kids, make sure they had fun and keep them engaged. It changed the perspective of the coaches. We wanted to nurture their talent and calm them down when things became stressful.”
Torrance started off winning their first two games against New Hampshire and Ohio but then lost their next two in the double-elimination tournament to South Dakota and Ohio. While the team may not have won the Little League World Series, the experiences the kids shared in the dorms and on the field are something that will never be duplicated.
“Staying in the dorms was one of the coolest things,” says Levi Cornett. “We had pizza parties, and it is the nicest field I ever played on.”
One of the stories that encompasses the team’s time in Williamsport was a day they had the afternoon free after winning a game earlier that morning. With rain pouring down, the kids decided to take pieces of cardboard and slide down a giant hill right beyond the outfield fence. Their swim trunks and entire bodies were covered in mud, but none of the kids cared.
The kids also got to meet some of their favorite professional baseball players when the Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels played in the Little League Classic. The team took pictures with players and was especially excited to meet Angels players Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
When the team returned to Torrance, it was right at the beginning of the school year. The players said all of the students and teachers at their middle schools were coming up to them asking what the experience was like and telling them how proud they were of them.
A pizza party was held right after the team got back, and in the middle of September the city of Torrance held a parade downtown to celebrate its success. Even before that, more than 400 people throughout the community donated $32,000 to help families of the players get to Williamsport to watch and support the kids.
“I’m a firm believer in sports and team activities for kids and what it teaches them,” says Javier. “After everything that has gone on, seeing all of them be around each other and have fun working toward one goal was great.”