Alberto Ocon was caught off guard, startled by the announcement that South Pasadena Little League has been presented with District 18’s highest honor for sportsmanship.
“Wow!” said Ocon, SPLL’s president, who accepted the Albert W. Millham Award and handed a certificate and trophy on behalf of the local Little League board of directors during Friday’s opening night ceremony in Arroyo Park.
Exemplifying outstanding conduct on and off the field, South Pasadena players, officials, parents, friends and fans were praised for demonstrating good sportsmanship and citizenship practices during the 2019 season.
Signed by District Administrator Milan Mrakich, South Pasadena Little League will display the coveted award over the next year.
“Every year District 18 has a perpetual trophy that has been going since the ‘70s,” said Assistant District 18 Administrator Diane Bowman, talking about the importance of the prestigious honor. “It’s given to a league that has shown sportsmanship all year long, leadership, and, most importantly, hosts tournaments one after the other. South Pasadena has been doing that. Albert has been one of our very best presidents, and I would like to award the Millham Trophy to South Pasadena Little League.”
Along with South Pasadena, District 18 includes teams from East Alhambra, El Monte, South El Monte, Northeast Los Angeles, Los Angeles and Temple City.
In between three baseball fields in the Arroyo, the local Little League setup a variety of games and activities for kids, including a giant inflatable bouncer, and sold food, beverages and a wide assortment of league merchandise – shirts, hats and sweatshirts – for sale.
A group of kids joined Ocon at the microphone reciting the Little League Pledge to kickoff the opening ceremony. In unison the young softball players didn’t miss a beat after leading the Pledge of Allegiance moments earlier, saying:
I trust in God
I Love my country
And respect its laws
I will play fair
And strive to win
But win or lose
I will always do my best!
Ocon recognized the South Pasadena major’s all-star softball team that won the District 18 championship and moved onto the sectional finals. The league’s all-star senior baseball team also won the District 18 title and reached the sectionals. The junior baseball team also won the District 18 crown and advanced to the sectionals, and the league’s 11-year-old baseball team won district and ended its season at the sectional level.
“Our teams did great and I’m proud of all of them,” Ocon said after the ceremony. “We’re very proud of our program here.”
Following the ceremony it was time to “Play Ball!” A minor girls’ softball team, and major and junior baseball teams took to the field for a trio of games under the lights.
Businesses sponsoring South Pasadena Little League include Carole Majors – Coldwell Banker, the Howorth Family, Farmers Insurance-Alberto Ocon, The Burke Family, ISI Language Solutions – Michael Bearden, Nott and Associates, Emilia Aldana – Pacific Union International, Doghaus, Kevin Bourland – Compass, Mamma’s Pizza, LinVlacich – Sotherby’s, Dinosaur Farm, Pansky Markle Attorneys at Law, Michele Downing – Pacific Union International, The Kemper Family, Mario Vega – Vega & Rivera, LLP, Smilehaus Orthodontics, D.U.D.E.S., South Pas Fire Department, the Williams Family, The Michels Family, the Wingard Family, Dr. Vickie Greenberg – Orthodontist, Zocalo Public Square and the Robinson Family.
Ocon also signaled out the contributions of SPLL past presidents Joe Payne and Sam Hernandez, who continue to put in countless hours to the league, now celebrating its 68th year.
Under Ocon’s guidance, the South Pasadena Little League board consists of Karissa Adams, Danny Becerra, Yvette Becerra, Krista Ocon, Sean Dwyer, David Selby, Melina Becerra, John Ramos, Tom Woodworth, Tom Rogers, Charlie Wilson, Mark Kemper, Shawn Malatesta and Erik McKinney.
Following Friday’s ceremony, Ocon, still in awe, was gushing over South Pasadena Little League accomplishment, knowing the Albert W. Millham Award for Sportmanship is a big deal.
“South Pasadena Little League, Alberto and all the board members who helped us with the tournaments last year were just outstanding,” said Bowen, who was joined by District 18 Tournament Director Mike Dorado at the season opening event.
Following the ceremony, along with citing SPLL for its good sportsmanship, Bowen praised the league for interlocking with other leagues that needed help, adding, “It went far beyond what most leagues do,” she said. “And last year, South Pas not only did but many went onto sectional tournaments and hosted tournaments. They did a great job in hosting those tournaments.”
In response to the sportsmanship award coming the league’s way, a shocked Ocon said, “That was a huge surprise.”
The accolades kept coming for the SPLL president as one of the newer board members, David Selsby, closed Friday’s ceremony by handing Ocon a gift certificate to a local restaurant for his enormous contributions to the youth baseball and softball program.
“Each one of us on the board has our little thing we do to keep it going, but this guy here,” said Selsby, pointing to Ocon, “is just unbelievable. I just can’t imagine how many emails he has coming in all the time or how many fires he’s got to put out her and there. It’s really such a service to our community. It’s a wonderful Little League. It’s one of the most thriving Little Leagues in all of the San Gabriel Valley, maybe farther out than that. This guy does so much.”
The league’s appeal is that it’s homegrown since 1952, and Ocon -now in his fourth year as SPLL president – likes it that way. “We’re lucky our boundaries are 91030,” he said. “It’s our Little League, community based – pure and simple. That’s the best thing about our Little League. It’s 99 percent players [with a few restrictions] from South Pasadena and that’s why it’s so special.”
It’s special that a team from South Pasadena could someday play on national television and compete for a national championship.
“Those dreams could come true,” said the good-natured Ocon. “It takes a lot of hard work, a little luck and they could play in the (Little League) World Series if they put their mind to it. That’s pretty exciting.”
For the 705 kids taking part in the local baseball and softball program, Ocon wants to make it “a ton of fun. It’s our philosophy that everybody plays and that they play in different positions and has a great experience. That is what Little League is all about. We want to make it fun and memorable for all of these kids.”