Thousands of fans gathered in Chula Vista Thursday evening for a special public victory celebration for the Eastlake All-Stars, otherwise known as the United States World Series Champions.
The homecoming party began at 7 p.m. at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista.
Before the All-Stars and their coaches hit the stage, Padres pitcher Casey Kelly said a few words about the team, including how proud he was of the hometown Little Leaguers. Kelly – who happens to have shoulder-length hair – also said he likes the longer hairstyles some of the Eastlake players are sporting these days.
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox also spoke on stage about the team, saying how proud the city is of the players and their Little League World Series journey.
Backstage, the team received a pep talk from Padres icon Tony Gwynn before coming out to meet their enthusiastic fans.
The crowd, clad in Eastlake gear and team colors, held signs for the players and cheered loudly.
The Eastlake Little League All-Stars won the West Regional Championship and then went on to win three games in the Little League World Series competition to earn the title of national champs.
On Sunday, the team faced Tokyo in a tough competition for the World Series title. The team from Japan beat the American team 6-4 despite a valiant effort from the U.S. champs.
The community of Eastlake rallied around the team from the moment they were in competition in San Bernardino.
Crowds of cheering fans gathered to watch the Little League series in restaurants including the Eastlake Tavern & Bowl, one of the sponsors of the team.
The Eastlake Little League All-Stars roster includes Grant Holman, Jake Espinoza, Micah Pietila-Wiggs, Michael Gaines, Kevin Bateman, Rennard Williams, Dominic Haley, Charly Peterson, Giancarlo Cortez, Nick Mora, Patrick Archer and Ricky Tibbett.
For Eastlake All-Stars parent Ronne Pietila-Wiggs, the team’s 2013 LLWS journey has certainly been exciting.
Her son, Micah Pietila-Wiggs, is one of the star players on the Eastlake All-Stars. She says Thursday also happens to be Micah’s 13th birthday, so she’s been joking with him, saying she’s throwing him the biggest birthday party ever during the public celebration at Sleep Train Amphitheater.
Ronne says watching her son’s team power through the Little League World Series this year was absolutely nerve-racking, and there were several times where she felt like she was going to faint.
The mother also admits she practiced a few superstitions from the stands during the LLWS, such as painting her toenails pink and her fingernails blue. She also wore her lucky pink flip-flops at every game, and took a worn-out bag stuffed with team banners to every game.
Ronne says Micah has gotten a lot of attention, in part, because of his nickname, “Sugarlips.” She says she gave her son the nickname when he was about one year old after he ate a churro and the sugar stuck to his lips. Now, the nickname has followed him to his journey as a Little Leaguer.
Ronne says Micah is "mellow" and doesn't really mind the nickname.