The 2014 Sierra Mountain Little League season officially ended June 14 with closing ceremonies and an All Star game on the diamond behind the Oakhurst Community Center.
Robin Ward, the league's board president, is proud of the league's progress in many areas this season, including the participation of about 150 players on 13 teams in four divisions, a new high over the past few seasons.
The players prove Little League baseball still remains a favorite activity for boys and girls and still ranks high on the All-American list along with mom, apple pie, hot dogs, and the American flag.
"Our board has worked incredibly hard as a tight knit team to keep the league in great standing within the community and within our district," Ward said. "Our numbers are up and we are hoping to keep it that way for next season. I personally would like to applaud all Sierra Mountain Little League families for all of their hard work both on and off the field."
Ward also thanked all the players, coaches, umpires, concession volunteers, field maintenance, information committee, and team sponsors for helping make the season a big success.
"All the great community volunteers helped make for a great baseball season for all the players," Ward said.
Two teams, the Majors A's, and the Minor A Dodgers, continued on in post season play at the Tournament of Champions. District 10 officials chose the league to host two Tournament of Champion games in Oakhurst.
New to the district and the league this year was the Challenger program for players with special needs. Sierra Mountain Little League had 10 players in the Oakhurst program, organized by Jennifer Garner. The team was coached by her husband Jonas.
"The goal of this program is to give every child an opportunity to play baseball, regardless of their abilities," Jennifer said.
Michael and Lisa Sesto, have two boys that played on the first year team Gabriel, 5, and Logan 4.
Lisa said they were approached by Jennifer (Garner) about her boys participating on the new team.
"She explained the program and we were immediately interested," Lisa said. "Logan of course was a great candidate, as he is in a wheelchair due to his Transverse Myelitis, but he wondered about his brother Gabriel being on the team. Jennifer assured me Gabriel would be very welcome on the team as well."
Lisa explained that Gabriel has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and he tried to play on a regular team last year, but could not continue due to his inability to remain focused.
"Come to find out there are many kids on the team with ADHD," Lisa said. "After this year playing with the Challenger team, Gabriel just may be ready for T-Ball next year."
The Challenger team traveled to River Park in Fresno each Sunday for a game.
"The boys enjoyed it so much," Lisa said. "I have never had so much fun at a baseball game as we have at the Challenger games. Everyone is a winner and without a doubt, all of these kids have learned team spirit, the rules of baseball, how to play and how to encourage the other players. Each child had a baseball 'buddy' and the encouragement from the 'buddies' was unmatched. Both our boys eagerly awaited each practice and game. It was an experience the boys enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy for years to come."
Jonas Garner said coaching the Challenger team was the most rewarding coaching experience he has ever had.
"I can't wait to do it again ... the kids and their families were amazing," Jonas said. "They're so happy and they want to play so bad that's what makes it so rewarding."
Other members of the team were Evan, Isaiah, Owen, Daniel, Hannah, Sam, Emma, and Hellae. Baseball buddies were Peyton Garner, TJ Garner, Tanner Garner, Drew Garner, Lucas Lehigh, and Logan Lehigh.
Even though the Little League season has ended, Ward encouraged players to continue to play ball.
"Players, please don't let your gloves get dusty in the off season," Ward told the Little Leaguers. "Play catch, have a sandlot game here or there, or play whiffle ball in the lake this summer."
Later that evening, the league held a fundraising barbecue dinner and dance.
Teams and sponsors
This season's Sierra Mountain Little League teams and sponsors were:
Majors: Angels (Coarsegold Dental); Minor A Angels (Sierra Tel); Minor B River Cats (AT&T); Majors A's (Bass Lake Water Sports); Minor A Dodgers (PARC Environmental); Minor B Cardinals (Fogg, Maxwell, Lanier, and Remington-Dr. Dan Prescott); Minor B Braves (Dr. Rodney Peter, DDS); Minor B Volcanoes (Oakhurst Rotary Clubs); Minor B Cubs (Endodontic Specialists of Oakhurst-Dr. Ryan Franklin); T Ball Braves (McGoldrick & McGoldrick); and T Ball Cardinals, Cubbies, and Iron Birds (sponsored by the league).
Little League celebrated its 75th Anniversary this month. It was June 6, 1939, in Williamsport, Pa., that that Lundy Lumber beat Lycoming Dairy, 23-8, in the country's first Little League game. Today there are 160,000 Little League teams and 2.4 million players in 80 countries around the world.
The Little League Museum is in South Williamsport has a gray flannel Lycoming Dairy uniform on display, along with countless pieces of Little League memorabilia collected over the years.
The Little League World Series Tournament Championship game will be broadcast on ESPN on Sunday, Aug. 24.
The game will be the conclusion of more than 10,000 teams who began a quest in May for a Little League World Series Championship.