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Youth Baseball: Families travel far to support Nationals

By RICK SMITH
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

SAN BERNARDINO — Claire Gago was interested in the dormitory in which her son and 12 teammates and coaches were staying near Chuck Houghton Stadium.

“They’ve been here since Wednesday,” Gago said. “I thought they’d be in a two- or three-story building, but they’re in these little barracks, all of them.”

Perhaps she was thinking of something more along the lines of college living, but the Little League-size beds, hardly long enough for Quinton, her strapping son, provide another quaint aspect to this virtual Field of Dreams enclave north of the old city on U.S. 66.

There probably were 1,000 fans in attendance at Friday’s West Regional tournament opening game and the Petaluma Nationals’ red colors were in abundance.

The black and gold of the Hawaiian team, matched with the red and white of Petaluma provided a vaguely Pittsburgh Steelers-San Francisco 49ers appeal.

The parents of the 13 players were on hand, plus a bunch of others.

The Belove family of Petaluma left their home at 5 a.m. yesterday for the journey of just under 500 miles. They brought their son Max, a future Nationals player who was on the 11-year-old all-stars this season, and 4-year-old Ted, who has become a mascot of sorts.

“They rub his head for good luck,” said the youngster’s father.

The Gago family will become well acquainted with the bucolic Interstate 5 this weekend. “On Sunday my husband will take me back,” Claire Gago said. “I have to work on Monday.”

Her husband will then turn around Monday morning and drive back to San Bernardino for the last two games of the tournament.

Sharon Hutchins and relatives had to drive only from San Diego to watch grandson Bradley Smith pitch and hit. “We’ve been watching him since T-ball,” she said. “He’s so relaxed out there, isn’t he?”

Ingrid Burch was keeping score from her wheelchair atop the stands. “Oh, I’m not pulling for anyone,” she said, although adorned in red. “My husband Larry is in the press box, doing the play of the game on radio. We’ve been coming here 25 years.”