Encinitas Little League’s 12 year olds pack for another game with its usual gear: Baseballs, bats and a bull’s eye.
“We do hear some rumors and chatter that we are the ones other teams are concerned about,’’ ELL All-Star manager Danny Muckley said. “We pretty much expect their best pitchers and the boys know that.’’
Know this — ELL is at it again.
The All-Star season is in full swing and North County’s youth are making contact.
ELL is still alive for Southern California titles after outlasting teams in three age groups: 13 year olds, 12s and 11s.
Encinitas National Little League is doing the same in the 10s.
The Carlsbad Softball Association is headed to the nationals, as its 10s prove if the boys can do it, so can the girls.
It’s an amazing run of success for two cities where many players their ages are content to chill at the beach.
Instead these athletes put playing in the waves on hold for playing for their cities and each other.
ELL’s 12s thrilled the region last summer when advancing to within one game of competing for a Little League World Series berth.
It lost to Nevada, the eventual United States champion at the West Regions in San Bernardino. But not before providing a summer of thrills and spills that had nothing to do with surfing.
That the 12s are on another ride by winning the district and sectional tournaments is stranger than North County rain in July.
What a second — what’s going on here?
“Number one, we’re fortunate to be living in such a great community that has such a support system from the league, to the families, to the facilities,’’ Muckley said. “We’re very fortunate all these areas are channeled toward really helping the kids.’’
It’s also those kids that saw last year’s All-Stars playing on TV and being stars away from the field as well. Many think that’s built interest in the national pastime and if keeping the young ‘uns active is the mission, score one for the “hey batter-batter crowd.”
“Due to the success last year summer, our Fall League numbers were up 15 percent and the Spring League numbers vaulted from 502 players to 544,’’ said Todd Sleet, ELL’s past president and an 11s All-Star coach. “The rookies division had the most players in two decades, showing that it wasn’t just interest in the 12-year-olds. The 6-year-olds wanted a piece of the excitement, too.’’
ENLL, which plays at Park Dale Lane Elementary School, also has fields brimming with players.
“Encinitas should be proud of these two organizations for representing their district and section with pride,’’ Sleet said.
That goes for a group of Carlsbad girls and who says the U.S. Women’s Soccer team cornered the female athletic fun this summer? If the goal is to keep advancing so they can keep playing together, the Carlsbad crew is doing just that.
“The girls are super excited,’’ said Carlsbad’s Tami Krebs.
That goes for all of us.
In a baseball season in which the Padres disappointed and dismissed a good manager in Rancho Santa Fe’s Bud Black, it’s a nice diversion to concentrate on the kids.
Don’t tell the folks down at Petco Park, but it’s rare if Padres games match the dramatics produced by these youngsters.
So go support them, either in person or with your North County vibe. These players are creating memories of a lifetime and remember when you were their ages and the joy summer brought?
“They have fun, they love the game and they love playing with each other,’’ Sleet said. “It’s everything that is right about youth sports.’’
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports