Monday, August 17, 2009

Park View Little Leaguers to go to World Series

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Luke Ramirez is literally head and shoulders above his Park View teammates. (John R. McCutchen / Union-Tribune)

Big, friendly giant
Park View player Ramirez's legend, like him, just keeps growing
By Don Norcross
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
August 20, 2009

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — In this sleepy little town tucked between the Bald Eagle and Allegheny mountains, the legend of Luke Ramirez grows...

When the 6-foot-2, 200-pound, 13-year-old Ramirez walked about the dorm cafeteria Tuesday, one rival player looked at him and asked in all seriousness, “Why is the coach wearing a uniform?”

Ramirez, a good-natured sort, shrugs off the attention.

“I don't let it bother me,” he said yesterday, swatting gnats off his face after a humid morning practice. “I'm kind of looking forward to some new lines from people here.”...

Said Ramirez's mother, Kasey, “It used to make me quite angry. I felt like people were calling us liars (about his age) and that used to frustrate me to no end. Since then, I've learned it comes with the territory. Deep down, I know he's my son. I know he's just a special boy.”

Every August some kids show up here looking like they shop in the men's department. Three years ago it was Aaron Durley from Saudi Arabia. At 6-9, 245, Durley is the biggest player in Little League World Series history.

Ramirez isn't even the biggest player at this year's tournament. That distinction goes to Durley's little brother, Cameron, who dresses out at 6-2, 233. The smallest player is Japan's Kenya Kawashima: 4-6 and 72 pounds.

After the Danny Almonte incident in 2001, Little League Baseball has tried to tighten its age-verification process. Almonte pitched the first LLWS perfect game in 44 years and helped eliminate Oceanside American 1-0. Though Almonte was not large in stature, he later was determined to be 14, two years over the limit. Players must be no older than 12 as of April 30. Ramirez turned 13 on May 15.

Since the Almonte flap, Little League has required leagues to submit players' original birth certificates rather than copies. At the first round of All-Star playoffs, the tournament director and each team's league president sign an affidavit, verifying the ages have been checked.

Ric Ramirez, Luke's father and a Park View coach, took extra precautions during the team's playoff run. Manager Oscar Castro kept Luke's original birth certificate. Ramirez carried one in his coaching bag and kept a third in his truck...

“For his size,” said Kelley, “he's got agility. He's not clumsy by any means.”

As big as he is, Ramirez is not Park View's most prolific home run hitter. At the West Region tournament in San Bernardino, pitcher/outfielder Kiko Garcia (5-6, 140) clubbed 12 home runs. Ramirez hit four.

But some of Ramirez's long, towering blasts have taken on mythical proportions. In a game at Park View's field, one sailed over eucalyptus trees estimated to be 75 feet tall.

“It was just manly,” said Kasey Ramirez.

At San Bernardino, one cleared a Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes concession stand at least 100 feet beyond the 200-foot outfield fence...

Local Little Leaguers headed to World Series
Chula Vista team wins West Region title, will go to S. Williamsport
By Don Norcross
San Diego Union-Tribune Staff Writer
August 17, 2009

SAN BERNARDINO — Three hours before Park View Little League's showdown with Northern California yesterday, fans of the Chula Vista team filled a parking lot, painting their faces green and white.

Two hours before the first pitch, the locals began filling Al Houghton Stadium.

“I'm getting a good seat for my brother,” Eduardo Garcia said.

Five pitches into the game, shortstop Andy Rios scalded a line-drive home run to right. Three batters later, Kiko Garcia, Eduardo's little brother, lofted a two-run homer over the scoreboard.

“It's over,” said one fan.

Soon enough, it was.

In a nationally televised game on ESPN2 and in front of an overflow crowd of 13,350, Park View erupted for eight runs in the final two innings and buried the team from Granite Bay-Loomis outside Sacramento, 11-4, to win the West Region title.

Park View's reward: a trip to South Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series.

“Oh my, this feels great,” Rios said. “It's every little 11-and 12-year-old boy's dream to go there.”

Back in June, more than 6,500 leagues worldwide fielded All-Star teams in the Majors division. Only 16 make it to South Williamsport. Only eight of those represent the United States...

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