Friday, August 21, 2009
It's a weeknight at the Armenta household. The family is gathered around the television, watching a recent little league all-stars game featuring their favorite player: 12-year-old Isaiah Armenta.
"With Isaiah, it doesn't matter if one person is on base or the bases are loaded. He goes in there and acts like its nothing," Marta Armenta said.
Armenta's son is one of 12 players on Chula Vista's Park View Little League team. The proud mom says Isaiah never cracks under pressure.
"He's not intimidated, he's not afraid. So the coach gave him the name ‘The Bull.’”
And he's not a little boy either. Isaiah is 5’6” and weighs 170 pounds.
"Maybe between seven and eight (years old) he just started getting bigger and bigger. He wears size 12 shoe, which is bigger than his dad and his brother. He's big in size but a little boy at heart.”
It's that child-like passion combined with big baseball talent that’s carrying the entire Chula Vista team to Williamsport, Pa. for the team’s national debut in the 2009 Little League World Series. The team's success is welcomed news for a city that's been getting more attention recently for its foreclosure crisis. They play a team of all-stars from Kentucky tomorrow.
Armenta says the town and the nation are taking notice.
"Everybody is like one big community. We're getting emails from people living in different states, and they’re like, ‘I used to live in Chula Vista,’ and they're finding a connection."
Cheryl Jones is Isaiah Armenta's teacher at Rancho Del Rey Middle School where five other players take classes.
"I've never been more excited about little league baseball in my life," Jones said.
Jones says there's a buzz around campus, with reporters visiting every other day for a story. She says the kids are just waking up to the fact that their classmates are little league super-stars.
"When we found out that they were going to Pennsylvania, the other kids were like, ‘What is that?’ And once you explain to them, they say, ‘Our kids are doing that? Oh my goodness!’”
So now their classmates are making posters, watching games and wearing team T-shirts. They're also helping to raise money for the team's trip. Most of the students say their families will be gathered around TV sets to watch the youngsters represent Chula Vista.
"Well I think it’s insane they actually made it that far," Jackson Barackman said. The 12-year-old Rancho Del Rey student once played for the Park View Little League team. “Its just amazing to see those home runs hit. They're hitting farther than anything that I've seen in little league. Its amazing power that their using."
And residents say its amazing to see how the entire city of Chula Vista is uniting behind this team. The 805 Freeway cuts the city in-half. On the westside are older, working class neighborhoods. On the eastside the neighborhoods have newer, bigger houses and wider streets. The team's baseball field is located near the freeway.
"I guess we're getting our time in the sun, huh?,” Tony Raso said. Raso grew up in Chula Vista. He's owner of La Bella's Pizza -- a downtown fixture on the eastside of town. He says the team is lifting the spirits of the community at a time when the economy is bringing a lot of working families down.
"They can prove that anywhere, anytime, something really good can happen. Its time for our South Bay little leaguers to show their stuff."
And the rest of San Diego County is taking notice. Little league families say they're inundated with emails, calls and letters from Poway to San Ysidro from folks wishing them well.
Armenta says it doesn't surprise her that people are taking interest in her son’s team now. She says she knew all along these boys were on to something big. Now she's hoping their success will help Chula Vista get some newfound respect.
"If anybody didn't know where Chula Vista was, now people are looking to see where Chula Vista is,” Armenta said. “I think the kids are really putting Chula Vista on the map."
Chula Vista's Park View Little League team is the ninth San Diego County team to reach the tournament. They are competing against seven other all-star teams for the chance to represent the U.S. in the Little World Series Championship game.