Hero's Welcome Greets Chula Vista Little League Champs

Park View Little League All-Stars are back home Tuesday after returning to Chula Vista to a hero's welcome, marking the first of many celebrations scheduled to honor of the team for clenching the Little League World Series Championship.

Park View is the first San Diego County team to win the series since 1961, though other teams have come close.

"It's just amazing to be called (world champions)," Park View shortstop Andy Rios said after Sunday's 6-3 victory over Taoyuan, Taiwan in the championship game at South Williamsport, Pa.

"We just wanted to come in here and just try to go for it and we did," he said. "It's just an amazing feeling."

Playing at Howard J. Lamade Stadium before a crowd of 32,400 that included Vice President Joseph Biden, Rios went three-for-three, scored the go-ahead run, drove in an insurance run and made the key defensive play in Sunday's victory.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a statement congratulating the team for its "amazing Little League World Series win."

"Chula Vista broke records, showed remarkable sportsmanship and persevered throughout the series and I am proud to say they are from California," Schwarzenegger said, referring to the team's record 19 home runs in the Little League World Series.

"Our boys of summer are world champions and we're going to throw a world-class celebration for them," Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox said before the event. "The Blue Bombers have lifted the spirits of the city and the entire region, and we can't wait to cheer for them."

Some 8,000 admirers flocked to Southwestern College's DeVore Stadium Monday night to welcome Park View home from South Williamsport, Pa., where the team had been for the past two weeks. Some of the crowd waited more than two hours for the team to arrive.

The crowd went into a frenzy when Park View arrived shortly before 10 p.m. It roared again when comedian George Lopez made a surprise appearance and led the stadium in chanting, "We are ... Park View," The San Diego Union- Tribune reported.

The Little Leaguers are expected to return to their respective schools by Wednesday. Principals, teachers and students at all four of the players' schools plan to honor them with pep rallies and other festivities that day, according to the Union-Tribune.

The city is expected to honor them Friday with an official homecoming rally at Southwestern again. The rally is scheduled to start at 6 p.m., with gates opening at 4 p.m.

The team is also expected to meet President Barack Obama and to be honored by the Chargers and Padres.

Though Monday's night crowd was large, it was nothing compared to the 32,400 people who gathered at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport Sunday for the championship game against International Champion, Chinese- Taipei. In the crowd was Vice President Joe Biden, who was among the first on the field to congratulate Park View on its 6-3 victory.

The only other San Diego County team to win the Little League World Series was the El Cajon-La Mesa Northern All-Stars in 1961, whose roster included future NFL quarterback Brian Sipe.

Two San Diego County teams lost in the Little League World Series Championship Game -- La Mesa Northern in 1957 and El Cajon Western in 1977.

Although nicknamed the "Blue Bombers" because of their power-laden lineup, Park View won Sunday without hitting a home run, rallying from a 3-0 third-inning deficit and taking the lead for good with three runs in the fourth inning.

Jensen Peterson led off the inning with an infield single, moved to third on Nick Conlin's double to right-center and scored on a sacrifice fly by Seth Godfrey, the No. 9 hitter in Park View's lineup.

Conlin scored on a wild pitch by losing pitcher Hung Yuan Lin, tying the score 3-3. Bulla Graft's two-out RBI single drove in Rios, who singled, with the go-ahead run.

The game's key play occurred in the fifth inning. Park View reliever Kiko Garcia hit two batters and walked a third to load the bases with one out. Rios fielded a ground ball hit by Chin Ou, tagged the runner coming off second base and threw to first base to end the inning.

"What was going through my mind was that coach wanted corners in and most of the batters that Kiko faced were up on him," Rios said. "So I was cheating towards third base, and that's where he hit it. I just tagged the runner and threw to first.

"The momentum was on their side when they had the bases loaded, but after I turned that double play, it was all ours."

Park View added two runs in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI double by Godfrey and a run-scoring single by Rios.