South Pasadena Little League might not be in a better place in its near 70-year history after capturing six District 18 all-star titles this summer.
Just how good is the local baseball and softball program? Look no further for the answer than the organization’s enthusiastic president Alberto Ocon, who says the league’s success is a result of hard work of its players and a large group of dedicated volunteers.
“The people involved, from the coaches, those who work in the snack stand, individuals getting the fields ready for games – everyone – make it special for all the kids,” said Ocon, who deflects the attention from his presidency role, recognizing it takes many, including a 50-plus SPLL board member staff to make it happen. “I have so many great folks who help us out year-round. My board is the best. Anything that is needed, they step up and are there.”
Combine the young athletes who compete on the field with those who offer their time freely, take the initiative and actively advance the league, and it all adds up to a well-oiled machine.
“It really has been a great experience because of all those who take part,” said Ocon, who is also grateful of the support the league receives from the City of South Pasadena, especially the Parks and Recreation Department, responsible for helping maintain the fields. “All that stuff pays off. The kids love it, the families love it,” insisted the SPLL president.
Ocon, who owns an insurance and tax preparation business, doesn’t have to do it, but continues to serve because he wants to see the league prosper. His kids all “aged out,” explained Ocon, meaning his children are now beyond their Little League years. “When they were involved playing, I got asked to be involved with our program. If you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right.”
And South Pasadena Little League is doing it right in a big way these days, especially under his guidance as president the past four years.
Remarkably, SPLL won six of the 10 District 18 championships this summer. In softball, they won the big trophy in the 7-8 year-old, 12-year-old and Junior Divisions. Further, the Jr. Softball team won the Sectional Championship. On the baseball side, the 9-11 year olds, 12-year-old and Junior Baseball were all the top finishers and all three are still playing in Section 3 tournaments.
In face of the pandemic, the league was safely able to get a full season in starting back in March, followed by tournament action. The least amount of games played was 15 in one division while others had as many as 22 on their schedule.
“The families were great once we started playing, understanding what it took to play,” said Ocon. “Everybody listened, followed the rules. We all needed to wear masks, be 6-feet apart; we wiped down the softballs and baseballs. All the little things added up to people working together to making it work. There were a ton of Little Leagues in the area that couldn’t get off the ground this year, but we did very well, and it’s exciting.”
Ocon said the league was running smoothly on all cylinders prior to his arrival as president. “I’ve just tried to make the program better than what it was, and it was fantastic before, and have just tried to keep moving it forward from there.”
He looks forward to his fifth year in office next March when the league will kick off its 70th year of existence with a huge opening day celebration. Ocon proudly points out that South Pasadena Little League, launched in 1952, notably is the oldest in California.
Part of the initial planning is an effort to invite the Little League CEO at the corporate level to the 2022 kickoff festivities. Letters will also be sent to some of the local league’s old guard, including past presidents, board members and key individuals who have been instrumental in building one premiere youth programs around.
“We’re looking forward to giving them some applause, some love for putting the program together and helping make it what it is today,” said Ocon. “It wouldn’t be where it is today without them.”
The following is a quick look at some of the 2021 SPLL District 18 All-Star champions and participants. Volunteers of South Pasadena Little League provided the information:
11 and Under Baseball
• South Pasadena Little League 11 and Under All-Stars overcame an early 3-run deficit to beat East Alhambra 7-5 for the championship. The team played 10 games before wrapping up the title.
The South Pasadena Little League All-Stars 11U took the lead for good with five runs in the third inning. In the third, Evan Leyva tripled on the first pitch of the at bat, scoring two runs, Ronan Selsby doubled on a 1-1 count, scoring one run, Max Osorio singled on the first pitch of the at bat, scoring one run, and Trent Tozer scored on a fielder’s choice.
South Pasadena pitcher Tyler Wilson gave up five hit and four runs over three innings, while striking out four and walking one.
The team includes Michale Ludena, Jacob Ghaly, Maxwell Osorio, Tyler Wilson, Mateo Castillo, Santiago Castillo, Max Agius, Cooper Slattery, Ronan Selsby, Evan Leyva, Trent Tozer, Ellis Kim and Thomas Kemper. Manager Sergio Leyva, Coach Charlie Wilson and Thomas Agius.
- 12-Year-Old Baseball
Cody Robinson had four hits to lead SPLL Major All Stars to a 12-3 victory over Temple City National on Monday. Robinson singled in the first, third, fifth and sixth innings. South Pasadena secured the victory with the help of an 8 run first inning.
Contributing to the big win were Kory How, Charlie Karr, Chris Cortinez Jr., Cody Robinson, Grayson Ebner, EJ Pearson, Lucas Becerra, Julian Barns, Ian Wong, Matthew Nagel, Matt Rogers, David Kemper and Jack Olsen.
South Pasadena had 15 hits in the contest as Robinson, Cortinez Jr., Wong and Barns chipped into the victory with multiple hits. Robinson was 4-for-5 on the day to lead SPLL.
The District 18 champs play in the Section 3 Tournament starting July 17 at 12:30 p.m. at Claremont Little League College Park, 100 S. College Avenue in Claremont.
• Junior Baseball
The South Pasadena Jr. Little League Baseball team defeated the Temple City American Brewers and Yankees to claim the championship with an 8-5 win in the final game on July 9.
The local all-star unit had 11 hits on the day as Sam Rodriguez and Gabe Vogel collected two each while Phill Malatesta, Alex Michels Gavin Dwyer, Konrad Neu, Daniel Byun, Silvestre Quiroz and Ben Lee all had one.
Team members include: Sam Rodriguez, Charles Esnault, Nico Mostert, Phil Malatesta, Konrad Neu #13 Ben Lee #14 Charlie Vogel #21 Gavin Dwyer, Silvestre Quiroz, Gabe Vogel, Harley Arrieta, Alex Michels, Daniel Byun, and Brandon Woo.
Manager Sean Malatesta, Coach Sean Dwyer and Hector Rodriguez.
The District 18 Champion’s next game will be July 17 at 7 p.m. when the play at Clarich Field in Arroyo Park for the start of the Section 3 Tournament.
• Junior Softball
South Pasadena’s Juniors softball All Stars fought back in 10-9 loss to West LA.
SPLL’s effort to come back from down five runs in the sixth inning came up just short last Tuesday.
South Pasadena had nine hits in the high-scoring game, but the West LA LL All Stars had 12 of their own on the way to victory.
Annika Selsby and Sophia Atencio both had multiple hits for the SPLL Juniors Softball All Stars 2021.
The team featured: Sydney Lee, Ana Dawson, Natalie Kan, Reese Buckley, Annika Selsby, Jolene Wu, Natalie Wilson, Naiya Kim, Juliana Moster, and Sophia Atencio along with Manager David Selsby Coaches Curtis Kan and Robert Mostert.