Three members of the San Diego Padres -- brothers Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez, and Tony Gwynn Jr. -- were thrilled on Monday when they received caps autographed by the team from Chula Vista that won the Little League World Series on Sunday.
Also on Monday, the Blue Bombers returned to Chula Vista, to the cheers of thousands of fans who turned out at Southwestern College, including comedian and TV star George Lopez. The Little Leaguers arrived by bus from Ontario Airport a little before 10 p.m. and spoke for 15-20 minutes, showing off their 2009 World Championship banner.
The Park View All-Stars signed the powder blue caps last week in South Williamsport, Pa., and sent them to Petco Park. Edgar Gonzalez said they were a gesture of thanks for both moral and financial support.
The gesture was well received.
"I came back in from doing my early hitting in the cage and I saw it in my locker," Gwynn said. "I wasn't sure if it was mine, but I knew that because it was in my locker I was going to take it regardless of whether it was mine or not."
Gwynn said it was enough of an honor that a few of the Little Leaguers mentioned him as their favorite player when they introduced themselves on the television broadcasts.
He was really stoked about the cap.
"I was happy that I was one of the guys that got one of the hats," said Gwynn, whose father played his entire 20-season, Hall of Fame career with the Padres. "It's definitely going to go up next to every autograph I've got. We don't have very many San Diego Little League champions. So the fact that I got a hat, I'm honored. I really appreciate it."
The only other team from San Diego County to win the Little League World Series was the El Cajon-La Mesa Northern All-Stars in 1961. That team included Brian Sipe, who went on to play quarterback for the Cleveland Browns and was the NFL's MVP in 1980. He's now the quarterbacks coach at his alma mater, San Diego State.
The Gonzalez brothers have a unique connection to Park View, which rallied to beat Taiwan 6-3 in the title game. Park View shortstop Andy Rios lives in the house where the Gonzalez brothers grew up. The house just happened to come with a batting cage, which became a hangout for the entire Park View team.
"That's pretty cool that they used the same cage that we did growing up," Adrian Gonzalez said. "It's a nice touch to it all. I think more credit goes to the kids and the hard work and all the time they put into it. They're from Chula Vista, so we're all behind them. It's pretty exciting and we're definitely fans."
Gonzalez didn't start Sunday's game at Florida because of an arm injury.
"It doesn't feel good to be injured, but it was kind of nice. I got to be inside watching both games at the same time," he said. "It was a lot of fun to be able to watch them."
Edgar Gonzalez was finishing a rehab assignment with Triple-A Portland on Sunday and headed for the clubhouse in between innings.
"I was trying to watch every pitch of it," he said.
After Park View's star slugger, Luke Ramirez, was beaned in a game last week, one of his coaches hooked him up by phone with Edgar Gonzalez. Gonzalez has been on the disabled list since getting hit in the head by a fastball from Colorado's Jason Hammel on July 18.
"I just told him that they were probably throwing inside just because they know he can hit home runs, they don't want him to extend his arms, they're a little afraid of him," Gonzalez said. "When he gets hit, it means you're on first base and you can help the team win, and just try to have fun."
Edgar Gonzalez knew the caps were coming.
"It was really cool because they said they ran out of them," he said.
Chula Vista has scheduled a homecoming rally on Friday evening. The Padres plan to honor Park View during their next homestand, most likely on Sept. 12 before a game against the Colorado Rockies.