The players and coaches knew they had a good team. But when the took the field for their first tournament of the summer nearly a month ago, they didn't think they'd be playing for a world championship.
“We were just taking it one game at a time, one tournament at a time,” said all-star infielder Kenny Chavez, 18. “We had no expectations to go this far.”
Three tournaments and 12 undefeated games later, the team — made up of the top 16- to 18-year-old players from teams in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Hayward and Union City — is playing in the Big League Baseball World Series, the world championship for Little League’s highest age level.
After winning the Western regional tournament last week in Bremerton, WA, the all-stars from southern Alameda County flew to Easley, South Carolina, where they play their first World Series game today at 4 p.m.
Set to wear jerseys saying “West” on the front, they will face a team from Louisiana, which emerged as the Southwest regional representative.
“It’s hot,” assistant coach Jason Yau said of South Carolina. “We did a little practice (on Tuesday) trying to get used to the weather.”
On their way to the World Series, the District 45 All-Stars have defeated teams from Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Oregon and Southern California.
Other teams in the tournament come from the Southeast, the East and the Central United States, as well as Mexico, Latin America (not including Mexico), Europe, and Asia.
Though the tournament is officially under the Little League umbrella, the teams playing in it don’t exactly fit the typical Little League profile.
The much-celebrated Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, which is broadcast from beginning to end by ESPN, is played by 11- and 12-year-olds. Those teams generally represent a single town, and not all the players necessarily go on to play in high school, much less in college or professionally.
The District 45 squad is essentially a junior college and high school all-star team of southern Alameda County. Many of the members play at Laney, Chabot and Ohlone colleges.
“We had a pretty good feeling about this team when we first brought them together,” Yau said.
While the team is on the road to winning a world title, the journey to get there and back is proving expensive for the 17 players and three coaches.
The team is asking for help from the the community to try to raise as much money as possible. Those who'd like to support the team can make contributions at www.eteamz.com/CaD45/supportourteam.
District 45 (West) plays Southwest on Wednesday, July 27 at 4 p.m. (EST). The game will not be televised, but you can follow the action on the online scoreboard here.