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Ocean View Little League players maintain perspective

The team from Huntington Beach won the Little League World Series on Sunday, but the players were never bothered by a need to win or the disappointment of losing in the tournament.

August 28, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Ocean View's Dylan Palmer gives Japan's Kaito Suzuki a hug after the Little League World Series championship game on Sunday in South Williamsport, Pa.
Ocean View's Dylan Palmer gives Japan's Kaito Suzuki a hug after… (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)

Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — Nick Pratto, a 12-year-old, refused to eat an ice cream sundae at a restaurant near Williamsport that is famous for its ice cream concoctions.

Nick refused to touch a scoop even though his father, Jeff Pratto, who also happens to be the manager of the Little League baseball team that features Nick as a pitcher and first baseman, all but begged him to eat the ice cream.

It turned out Jeff couldn't resist having a couple of scoops, and it is not a secret that Jeff is not in perfect physical condition. "Yeah, I'm going to have to go on a diet after this is all over," he said.

But how can you not root for a kid who turns down ice cream?

So good for Nick Pratto.

It was a well-earned game-winning, bases-loaded single that Nick hit in the final at-bat for the Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach. It was Nick's hit that gave his team, which represented the U.S. in the Little League World Series championship game Sunday, a stomach-churning 2-1 win over Japan.

There are plenty of critics who say the pressure on 11- and 12-year-olds who play baseball on national television in this tournament is not a good thing, and yet there was still such joy here.

Hagen Danner, who hit two home runs in Huntington Beach's six games in the World Series, said he has never had so much fun. Pratto rolled his eyes in answer to a question about whether he enjoyed sharing this with his father, Jeff, but then he said, "Yeah, it was cool."

Braydon Salzman, who gave up a game-winning home run in Ocean View's only Little League World Series loss, said that bad moment didn't bother him at all.

What he will remember, he said, is that baseball fans here asked for his autograph. "How cool is that," Salzman said. "That's so cool."

There was certainly pressure on the Ocean View team. They came here as favorites to win at least the U.S. championship and ended up eliminating two teams who were the feel-good stories.

There was the hometown favorite from Clinton County, Pa., that helped attract record crowds and which Ocean View needed to beat to stay alive.

And there was the Montana team from Billings, from a state that had never been represented in the Little League World Series, and the team that gave Ocean View its only loss, 1-0, when Salzman gave up that walk-off homer.

When Ocean View beat Montana again Saturday, 11-2, and became the U.S. champion, Manager Jeff Pratto finally gave a hint of the pressure he might have been feeling.

He said he felt relieved to have won that U.S. championship and that whatever happened Sunday was "gravy."

But his kids? They never seemed bothered by the need to win or the disappointment of losing.

And they always seemed to come through in the clutch.

In its 23-2 run through the playoffs, Ocean View won five games by one run and survived two elimination games.

"That's a mark of this team," Jeff Pratto said. "We won some tough ones."

So if you think Nick Pratto should not have turned down that ice cream sundae, maybe you can also admit that he's learned some lessons about discipline and about working hard to achieve a goal.

And that maybe he will know he earned this moment of triumph because he sacrificed something.

But Nick, go ahead and sneak a scoop of ice cream now. You deserve it.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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