In the air are Little League All-Star games and in the stands is Daryl Wasano.
And there’s little better than that.
Wasano isn’t coaching, but did he ever really stop? The face, which was familiar to millions as the 2001 Oceanside American Little League All-Star coach, still causes double takes.
Especially around ballparks filled with tykes and big dreams.
“Being in attendance brings back many fond memories of my years in Little League,’’ Wasano said recently, while watching a friend’s team play.
These days Wasano is chasing a bigger ball, playing softball on Sundays at Carlsbad’s Stagecoach Park. He’s still got pop in his bat and, more importantly, plenty to say about Little League All-Stars.
The calendar says summer and it’s accompanied by all-star competition throughout North County.
Sunshine is in plentiful supply; reality, not so much.
While others fret, Vista’s Wasano chills and there’s a lesson there somewhere.
“I’m pretty observant,’’ said Wasano, who retired from coaching in 2006 after winning the District 28 Tournament of Champions. “And what I see are parents on both sides and how they lose perspective on the game itself. It becomes all about winning and that’s all they’re thinking about.
“What the parents don’t realize is what a small, small percentage of these players are going to go to the next level and beyond that.’’
Wasano’s message is to enjoy the ride and let that be the focus. Be sure to sprinkle in smiles and know that the overwhelming majority of players won’t make the big leagues.
“Of all things make it fun,’’ Wasano said. “If you pound them that they have to do this and do that, it becomes a chore and they lose interest. That happens to a lot of them. I mean, how many Bryce Harpers are really out there?’’
Look at the team making Wasano famous. His Oceanside squad was so good that it wasn’t eliminated from the Little League World Series until meeting a left-handed, flame-thrower from the Bronx in Danny Almonte.
A 14-year-old Danny Almonte.
And the number of his Oceanside kids playing professionally?
Instead they’re scattered about, going into various fields and pursing dreams that don’t revolve around three outs in an inning.
And that’s why embracing the now instead of the future is Wasano’s mantra.
“Take it one game, one tournament, at a time,’’ said Wasano, 58. “And have fun in the process.’’
But don’t confuse laughs with being lackadaisical. Wasano kept it real — but kept at it with the game’s fundamentals serving as the foundation for success. He recalls rival coaches ridiculing his small ball approach, when advancing runners with a bunt or head’s up maneuver.
What Oceanside can’t shake is how it lost in South Williamsport, Pa. It was blanked by Almonte, who struck out 16 batters before whiffing himself when producing his forged birth certificate.
But Wasano isn’t bitter.
“There are no regrets, despite what happened,’’ Wasano said. “It is one of those things that happens in life and unfortunately our kids had to learn it at such an early age. They all laugh about it now; life goes on.
“Instead it brings back so many good memories. The years I put in there, while there were certainly ups and downs, those were special times for me not only as a coach but as a person.’’
Wasano, who works in the saltwater fishing industry, was snagged last year by a sight.
Some Oceanside players from Wasano’s celebrated squad reunited with him at a pizza joint.
“I had visions of those same young boys and now they were young men,’’ Wasano said with a laugh, something he does often. “I walked in and thought the last time I saw them they were drinking milk and orange juice. Now they were ordering beer.’’
No doubt to toast an All-Star coach, one not adverse to that intoxicating mixture of grins and grand baseball.
“Oh my gosh,’’ he said, posing a question with no answer. “Where did the time go?’’
Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. 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