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Little Leaguers adjusting to celebrity

Published: Monday, October 15, 2012 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.

From Six Flags Marine Discovery Kingdom to Sunrise Senior Living, it has been one appearance after another for the Petaluma National Little League All-Star team since their triumphal return from the Little League World Series.

While the Little Leaguers and their parents have been feted, fed and celebrated, they have struggled to return to something resembling a normal life. For the majority of the now 13-year-old players that means stepping up from elementary school to junior high school as seventh graders.

The baseball players started the secondary school experience a bit behind after missing the first few days at Petaluma Junior High after they returned home from the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

Since their return at the end of August, it has been a solid six weeks of one appearance after another for the players, who have been on the diamond with both the Giants and A's players, enjoyed pizza with Giants' pitcher Matt Cain, been honored at a Petaluma City Council meeting and made innumerable public appearances. Since its return, the team has generally had at least one mid-week and one or two weekend events each week.

Parents and players alike agree the pace has been hectic.

“The most difficult thing has been getting back into a normal routine,” said Cole Tomei, who is both team coach and parent of third baseman Trevor Tomei. “Right when you think things are getting back to normal, something else comes up.”

“I think they (the players) are getting kind of tired,” said Wayne Douglas, father of Logan Douglas. “But every time you think that, something else comes up and everybody gets new blood. For the parents, it is almost like reliving the experience every time we get together.”

Some of the parents acknowledged that grades are a concern, but so far the now teenagers are doing fine.

“It hasn't been bad,” said Kevin White, father of pitcher Andrew White. “For us, we have just tried to make sure (Andrew) is on track with school, especially during that first week, when he had to make up for missing a few days.”

Pitcher White has managed to stay on track, maintaining a 4.0 GPA for the first preliminary grading period.

Becky Smith, wife of team manager Eric Smith and mother of shortstop Hance Smith, is another who was concerned about grades, but her son has also maintained his straight A grades — almost. He did receive one B, ironically, in PE.

Smith, like the rest of the parents, has enjoyed the experience. Well, most of it. As wife of the manager, she has been instrumental in helping arrange many of the events. “Being an event coordinator is way over my pay grade,” she said.

“Sometimes you just had to say no,” pointed out Nicole Marzo, mother of first baseman/pitcher Danny Marzo. “They still had their homework to do. That had to come first.

“I think they (the players) grew up a lot. The visit to Sunrise was an awesome experience for them,” said Marzo.

Most parents agreed with Mike Smith, father of pitcher Bradley Smith. “I'm enjoying every minute of it,” he said. “It is still exciting.”

“What these events do is resurrect the incredible experience we all had,” said Andrew Paretti, father of catcher Austin Paretti. “While we were at the games, we were just in the moment. Everything was at hyper-speed. We didn't have time to smell the roses. These events give us a chance to reflect on what these kids accomplished and the experience we shared.”

“The experience was really special and the things they got to do afterward were just special.” said coach Mike Slate, father of second baseman Porter Slate. “It is amazing what they (have) gotten to do by playing the game of baseball.”

As for the players, they have accepted the celebration and the celebrity in the same way they played their tournaments, one event at a time, although they acknowledge they have had their favorites.

“It was probably the parade,” said catcher James O'Hanlon.

“Batting practice at the A's game,” noted outfielder Kempton Brandis. “And the luxury suite,” added pitcher White.

“The Giants and the A's games,” were the pick of pitcher Marzo.

Most however, agreed that the best of all was, as outfielder/pitcher Logan Douglas explained, “Swimming with the dolphins at Six Flags. It was awesome.”

Asked if it has been difficult keeping up with school and all the activities, the answer was, in Marzo's succinct reply — “Not really.”

The coaches had a different view of what was significant of the post-play experience.

“I was really surprised at how well the kids interacted with the seniors when they visited Sunrise,” said manager Eric Smith. He explained that the players went right up to the seniors and talked and shared stories with them.

“I was never more proud of them than I was on that day,” the manager said.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie.jackson@arguscourier.com)

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