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Another Claremont Little League season in the books

by Andrew Alonzo | aalonzo@claremont-courier.com

On Saturday, May 21, parents, coaches, volunteers and players of Claremont Little League gathered at College Park to put to bed another successful season of baseball.

But before afternoon festivities and distribution of trophies, scores and titles had to be settled during the finals of the city tournament.

In the early morning hours, players who made it to the finals of their respective division headed to the park’s diamonds to play for the championship. Here’s who came out victorious.

In the J.V. division, the Pirates bested the Yankees; in the majors, the Rays defeated the Yankees; and in the juniors tournament, the Dodgers (also) bested a Yankees team on Saturday. On Friday evening, the Diamondbacks trumped the Mariners in the minors division to take the city title.

No extra games had to be played at noon on Saturday, so players and families took a two-hour leave before coming back for the annual home run derby.

The derby saw 12 participants in the first round, all majors players who hit a home run or more during the regular season. In the second round, only four participants remained: the Reds’ Mattias Arredondo and William Scoby, the Rays’ Mason Quintero, and the Yankees’ Maxi Garcia. The remaining youngsters hit five or more home runs in the first round of the derby.

The home run derby winner was the Reds’ Mattias Arredondo, who smashed eight pitches to or over the fence in both the first and final rounds. Mattias became the first 10-year-old to win the home run derby and joins past winners including Brady Beckham (2021), Reed Miller (2020) and Will Middleton (2019).

To celebrate the victory, Mattias laid on the floor and threw up his index finger to show all that he was number one. In addition to his derby trophy, he also received a signed baseball from this year’s derby participants, a box of Pokémon cards and $20 from his grandmother.

Following the derby, President of Claremont Little League Jenny Ballesteros began the closing ceremony, a first in two years since COVID-19 began. A brief gift ceremony was held to honor departing CLL board members: Jeff Blacksher, secretary of three years, Dennis Ho, information officer of four years and 10-year board member and departing vice president, Oliver Weiler.

After hugs and cheers for the board members, teams that had placed third, second and first were recognized during the afternoon trophy ceremony. All 150 recognized players received a big high five and award from their coaches for their hard work this season.

After the ceremony, Ballesteros said 2022 was a season of firsts, with 10-year-olds being allowed into the majors division, and a new intermediate division [for 13-year-olds] seeing its debut.

“We just finished intermediate this spring. It was our first time [hosting] and we had some really good volunteers. Adrian Anderson and Jim Batts pushed to get that age group rolling,” she said. “We’re hoping it becomes a feeder program into the high school.”

She also shared her favorite memory of the season: its normality. With so many ups and downs t previous years due to COVID-19, the president expressed her joy at having just a “normal season” for the first time in two years.

“You know it always goes back to that 2020 season, it always goes back to the season we didn’t get to finish,” she said.

But this time around, “it felt like a real season, it felt like a normal season,” she added. “I’m sad that the season is coming to an end, but I know that there’s more baseball to be had.”

Like every season, the 2022 campaign was a beginning for players in the T-ball and farm divisions, as well as for some in the juniors. But Saturday’s closing ceremony also marked the end of an era for players who have made College Park a second home.

A brief gift ceremony was held to honor departing CLL board members including 10-year board member and departing Vice President, Oliver Weiler, above.

Players like Luke Forgey, a 12-year-old formerly of the major league Giants, will say goodbye to Little League play at the park and potentially join the new intermediate division. Intermediate players will join the juniors in playing and practicing at Griffith Park.

Luke has a lot of fond memories of CLL baseball, but he said his favorite is getting to play this season.

“I just really, really wanted to place this season in the top three. We played our hardest and it was one of my favorite seasons,” he said. “It’s my last year as a Little League player … my mom’s really emotional about it and tonight I’m going to party forever with my team.

“Yeah, it was a great season,” he added.

A majority of players said that their favorite moments of the season were either hitting a home run or simply hanging out with their teammates and friends.

In the evening, 92 players were recognized at their homes by CLL officials for making it onto the Claremont All Star team, including honorary Junior All-Star Gael Porter. To view the full list of Claremont All-Stars, visit facebook.com/claremontlittleleague.

The all-star team includes an under-eight team managed by Jessie Rodriguez; an under-nine team managed by Nick Lemas; an under-10 team managed by Tony Spinrad; an under-11 team managed by Jason Annigian; an under-12 team managed by Tami Patlogar; an intermediate team managed by Adrian Anderson; and a juniors team managed by Ray Stradley.

Asked about what’s next for CLL, Ballesteros said, “I don’t know yet. I got some big ideas but I got to see where we’re at. We got to get there first.”

Although the Claremont Little League season came to a close, all-star practice began on Monday, May 23. All-star tournaments for the different age groups are scheduled for late June.

For details on CLL, visit claremontlittleleague.org.

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