The playoffs are upon us. I'm not referring to the NBA or the NHL, though there are some terrific series taking place in those leagues. I'm talking about Little League baseball here in Huntington Beach, where, as the Jeff Pratto-led Ocean View team showed us a couple of seasons ago, it is never too early to start dreaming about the World Series in Williamsport.
Surf City, USA could just as easily be called Little League City, USA given the strength of our local teams. But beyond playoff baseball, there are some other things going on within the Seaview Little League district that transcend the sport in a number of thoughtful ways.
Last Saturday morning my son and I were watching a round 1 playoff game at LeBard Park. The Seaview Tigers defeated the Nationals 4-0 in a game that was very well pitched by both sides. After the game, Annette Phillips, whose son plays for the Nationals, told me more about why the season has been a little more special.
First, she called attention to the number "57" that adorns the sleeve of each player's uniform in the Seaview Little League. It's a memorial to Greg Willard, a longtime Huntington Beach resident and member of the Seaview community who passed away on April 1 this year after a nine-month battle of pancreatic cancer.
A much beloved figure in the community and former Seaview Little League board member, Willard was a married father of three and was very active in coaching local youth sports leagues. Additionally, he spent his career as an NBA referee for 24 seasons.
And 57 was Willard's number in the NBA. The players wore the number while Willard was ill and have maintained wearing the number since his passing. It's a very moving tribute and speaks volumes about the high level of community and class that Seaview demonstrates.
There's something else that this Little League district is doing to further a cause. When another one of the Little League moms, Elizabeth Moreno, visited Honduras with her family, she became aware of a former semi-pro baseball player down there named Dave Elmore.
Elmore, an American who now resides on the small island Roatan just off the coast of Honduras, has been teaching the local kids about baseball for years. He even carved a baseball diamond out of the jungle so that he could put his lessons to work in a real way.
Moreno thought it would be good to help him by starting an equipment drive whereby all used baseball gear could be sent to him. Today, there are barefoot kids down there playing baseball. But soon, hopefully, those same kids will have cleats, bats, helmets, jerseys, baseballs — whatever people in Huntington Beach can donate.
Moreno explained to me that she was very touched by Elmore's efforts and that, like Phillips, appreciates the positive heart and spirit that the Seaview Little League represents. So it is no surprise that local families have taken up the cause and started donating things.
If you would like to help donate any old baseball gear, here are the details:
What: Equipment Roundup for Honduran Youth
When: Wednesdays and Saturdays until the season ends
Where: Drop off boxes located next to both snack bars at LeBard Park, 20451 Cramier Lane, Huntington Beach
Items: balls, mitts, jerseys, pants, socks, helmets, cleats, practice equipment (gently used and new items are appreciated)
And for more information you can contact Elizabeth Moreno directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A heartfelt thanks to all the parents and players that make up the Seaview Little League. For the touching acknowledgment of Willard and the equipment drive to help an upstart island baseball program, they are celebrating our national pastime in very special ways and setting marvelous examples for all the kids within the city — and we adults, too.
Fire pit update
There was a jam-packed meeting Friday night where more than 50 people stood up and addressed Air Quality Management District board member and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido about their feelings on the proposed fire ring ban.
I was impressed by Pulido's staunch support of the fire rings and it was nice to have him attend the beach bonfire that took place just after the meeting. As it stands now, the June 7 vote date is being moved to later in the month and as soon as I have an update on when the vote will be held I will let you know.
For now, it is more important than ever to contact the AQMD to let them know how you feel about this draconian ban. The overwhelming majority Friday was in full favor of defeating the proposed ban and right now I would say our momentum is very good.
Let's keep up the fight and thank you to all who made it Friday and spoke so eloquently. As much of a headache as this is, this issue has galvanized our community and brought us together in a way that is very important.
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County," from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at http://www.facebook.com/hbindependent.