An Experience Of A Lifetime
Local Kids Make It To World Series
By Lynne Bronstein
Whether or not our local pro baseball teams make it to the World Series this fall, the Westside Los Angeles area can boast that it has a team that made it to the World Series of youth baseball-the Westchester Babe Ruth Boys’ 14-U baseball team.
The 15 players, all 14-year olds, journeyed to Murray City, Utah for their World Series August 18-26, accompanied by their manager, John Lopatto, coaches Barry Craddolph and Alex Galaviz, and team correspondent Scott Zeidman (also known in Culver City for his stint on the School Board).
The team members came from Westchester, Playa del Rey, and Culver City. Among those from Culver City were Cristian Amador, who attends Culver City High, and Scott Zeidman’s son, Jason.
Although the team did not win the Series, in the words of Scott Zeidman: “Westchester had an incredible run in its road to the World Series. [It] won its local district title, going 4-0. It then won the State tournament, again going 4-0.” Westchester then won the Pacific Southwest Region, defeating teams from the western United States, winning five of six games.”
Westchester ended up the third best team in the country, going 3-1 in pool play and defeating Missouri before being eliminated by one run against New Jersey.
The Observer chatted with Lopatto and several of the team members back home on their field in Playa del Rey.
Lopatto explained that the Babe Ruth League is “very much a non-profit organization,” run by parents and volunteers. The Westchester team has been around for 56 years but “this is only the second time in 56 years that we made it to the tournament. Last year they made it to regional and came up a game short. This year we made it to the World Series.”
The boys talked about the experience of staying in another town in another state, with host families.
“It was a good experience,” said Anthony Chavez, who usually catches for the team. “We met a lot of kids from a different culture. It was fun-a little crazy out there.”
Matthew Kanfer (third base and pitcher) noted that the rules for conduct in Utah were not quite like those the boys were used to. “No R-rated movies, no using the Lord’s name in vain, no cursing.” On the other hand, “They let us stay up until 4 a.m.”
The host families provided transportation, food, and even did the laundry for the kids they were hosting.
First baseman Laurence Gilliam said: “The best part was that we got to sit around and experience a different lifestyle. In L.A. we move around a lot-whereas in Utah, we were just chilling at home.”
The trip also involved flying to and from Utah, an experience that was fine for most of the players. However, one boy, who had never flown before, “was terrified. He never wanted to fly again,” said Kanfer.
Chavez recalled a lighter moment: “The best part of the flight was when Ethan spilled soda all over himself.”
When Westchester lost a game, were spirits down?
“We just had to keep our heads up after the first loss,” said Chavez. “We were a team. After a while it was just playing baseball.”
Lopatto explained that the Babe Ruth team has one more year. “Next year they’ll be 15-year olds. We’re looking to improve on our game for next year.”
What do the boys think the future holds for them?
“I want to make it back to the World Series next year and win,” said Gilliam.
“Just to go as far as we can,” said Kanfer.
Pitcher Angel de la Torre: “I want to go back undefeated and win it all!”
The Westchester All-Stars roster is: Avery Allen, Cristian Amador, Jordan Caines, Reggie Castro, Anthony Chavez, Grant Craddolph, Angel de la Torre, L.J. (Laurence) Gilliam, A.J. Inatsugu, Carlos Jacopo, Matthew Kanfer, Matthew Kaplan, Ethan Lazar, Mario Morales, and Jason Zeidman.