SOLANA BEACH — Two-time World Series champion Aubrey Huff offered some good-sportsmanship advice during Solana Beach Little League’s opening day ceremony, but it wasn’t all for the players.
“To the parents, no one is getting drafted this year so let the kids have fun,” said Huff, who won baseball’s premier contest with the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and 2012.
With his son Jayce by his side, Huff also shared his journey into Major League Baseball, which began in Little League.
“I was the last batter in T-ball, which meant I could hit it past the pitcher,” he said. “That’s when my love of baseball started.”
When Huff was 6, his father passed away so his mother went to work. “I spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house,” he said. “She would underhand plastic balls to me. When I hit them they would always head toward her house.”
Fearful he might break a window, his grandmother suggested he hit left-handed. He took her advice and to this day bats left and throws right.
Huff said he wasn’t the greatest player in high school, hitting only one home run. “Everyone told me I’d never make it in the pros, but I had a dream and I worked hard.”
As a junior college walk-on, “I kept dreaming,” he said. Huff eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Miami, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and played for several other teams during the next decade.
“After nine years of losing seasons, I started wondering if I really wanted to do this,” he said. Then Huff signed with the Giants in 2010.
Growing up in Texas, Huff was a Rangers fan. When he hit a game-winning two-run homer against that team in Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, Huff said he didn’t recall going from second base to the plate.
“I ran past second and looked in the stands and I remembered being there as a kid for hot-dog Tuesdays,” he said. “It was like a dream come true. I was living that dream.
“So don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something,” he said. “This is about working hard, having a good time and being good sports,” said Huff, who is managing his son’s T-ball team.
County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who has two sons in the league this year, kicked off the March 8 event at Solana Vista Elementary School, which marked the 57th year of Solana Beach Little League.
“What could be more American than Little League?” asked Roberts, a Solana Beach resident and former Little League player who presented the league president with a certificate of recognition from the county.
The one-hour ceremony also included a parade of teams, ceremonial first pitches, local student Brynn Forrester singing the national anthem, a Presentation of the Colors by the U.S. Marine Corps, entertainment by the youth group Too Loud and the official announcement to “Play ball!”
This year about 400 boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 14 will play on 36 teams in seven divisions: Juniors, Majors, AAA, AA, A, Rookie and T-Ball.
The more than two dozen 12-year-olds who will play their last season in Little League were also recognized.
League president Dave Pawlowski, who is managing one of the Majors Division teams, said when he began coaching some of those players eight years ago it was more like herding cats.
“The first day we had everything from a bloody nose to a kid crying because he wanted to go home,” Pawlowski said. “Now these boys are the backbone of Solana Beach Little League.”