Everyone knows about little league baseball. But what happens to those dedicated kids, the all-stars, perhaps, and the parents that want to keep playing and coaching after the little league season is over. That’s something called the South Pasadena Pride Baseball Club (SPPBC).
Moreover, this club of 13-and-under boys is jockeying to become the ad-hoc farm system for the South Pasadena High School baseball program, which many say can use all the help it can get.
Tom Woodworth, a coach of the local club team, explains.
“We are a travel baseball club formed from all-star players from South Pasadena’s Little League,” coach Tom Woodworth said in an email to The Review. “We travel and play top teams from Southern California and around the country in USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) tournament play. We are a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization founded on August 9, 2017. We currently have one team which is our 13-year-old group. However, we plan to create 11- and 12-year-old teams and establish ourselves as a true feeder program for South Pasadena High School (SPHS).”
And that would be welcomed relief, school officials say, especially since the Tigers are currently embroiled in a two-year Rio Hondo League losing streak. The Tigers last won a league game back in the 2017 season.
The club program follows a rigorous training schedule, according to Woodworth. They practice four-days a week and practice fielding and hitting at Legends Training Facility in Pasadena, agility training at Catz Pasadena and pitching.
Along with the practice, the team plays tournaments every other weekend and all this effort has paid off in high dividends.
The SPPBC is ranked fourth in the state and 38th in the nation in the USSSA, which has more than 2,500 teams participating, according to Woodworth.
“USSSA … is a national organization which puts on top tier tournaments for baseball and softball teams around the country,” Woodworth said.
And the local team bested all others recently at the USSSA Spring Championship in Glendale, Arizona.
“We played in the Spring Championships held in Glendale, Arizona, March 15-17…,” Woodworth said. “Competing against top teams from Utah, Arizona, California and Colorado. A team from Canada was also in the bracket. We went down 0-2 on day one and had to fight our way as the lowest seed in the Gold bracket, winning 4 straight games to win the championship. We beat Utah’s #1 Team, the Salt Lake City Gators, and Colorado’s #1 Team, Choice Select, out of Colorado Springs in the championship.”
Woodworth credited the tournament victory to the club playing as a team. He said there were individual standouts during the series but the title would not have been won without a total team effort.
“This tournament win was a result of teamwork and taking advantage of the opportunities when we had them,” he said. “A true team win. While some played larger roles and others more specific, each player rose to the occasion when called upon. Every player had their fingerprints on this championship.”
The tournament Most Valuable Player (MVP) honors went to catcher Ivan Becerra who had two triples and two doubles over the tournament. Becerra also prevented runners from stealing bases and his defense made the difference, Woodworth said.
“Winning tournament MVP felt great,” Becerra said in an email to The Review. “I thought I really earned it. I wanted to catch the whole tournament and nothing was going to stop me.”
Because many of the players are heading off to high school, the club is going to suspend tournament play but is going to continue training.
“This was our final tournament as a team since we will be graduating four key players to SPHS,” Woodworth said. “We have decided to continue to train. However, tournament play will be put on hold until further notice. What a way to end our fantastic run with these boys.”
Woodworth’s son, Owen, who plays second base, is one of those young stars heading off to SPHS next year. He said he’s grateful for the experience of playing baseball with a great group of guys and coaches.
“I’ve had such an amazing time playing baseball on this team with my best friends,” Owen said in an email to The Review. “We work hard together and have a great time every time we play together. This tournament was a great way to end our run as a team. Thanks to our coaches for always pushing us to work hard. I can’t wait to play with these guys in HS.”
Woodworth summed up the experience of SPPBC, saying these young baseball players also are solid students and more important, “fine young men.”
“What a fantastic way to cap off our run with this special group of players,” he said. “These boys work hard every day for opportunities like this and they took advantage and played tough baseball all tournament. These guys are grinders and every one of them had their fingerprints on this Championship. I’m proud to have had the opportunity to coach these boys and help them become great ball players, but more importantly fine young men. These student-athletes are not only amazing on the field but carry that over to the classroom as well.”
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