The third-best Little League team in the world returned home today.
The Petaluma National team lost a thrilling game for the U.S. championship to a team from Tennessee on Saturday, after an amazing 10-run comeback at the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania. The team arrived back at San Francisco International Airport this morning.
Dressed in their team hats and yellow jerseys, the players arrived at the airport's Terminal 1 on an AirTran flight late this morning as they returned from the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
A hero's welcome awaits them, beginning with a 1 p.m. celebratory gathering at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. The players will be shuttled from the airport to the fairgrounds in a white stretch Hummer.
Trevor Tomei, who said he has been coaching this same group of boys for the past several years, had trouble putting into words what the team had accomplished.
"It's hard to explain," he said. "The things they've been through the last month, I don't know if there are answers for it. They're legends."
He said that while they were at the World Series, he made sure the players were aware of all the support they were getting back in Petaluma, where viewing parties were held and fundraisers were planned to pay players' parents' travel expenses.
Tomei said his advice to the players has been to appreciate everything they are experiencing.
"We're reminding them every day that they need to take it in," he said. "They'll probably get more out of it 10 years down the road. They'll probably realize what they went through."
Pitcher and first baseman Andrew White, 12, is happy to be home.
"I miss sleeping in my bed," he said.
Quiton Gago, 12, who also pitches and plays first base, said he was taken aback when people would ask for his autograph at the games. He said he hadn't yet come up with a unique way to sign his name, so he created a signature on the spot.
He was excited about the Hummer ride back to the North Bay.
"I'm psyched," Gago said. "It will be awesome."
Most of the players are students at Petaluma Junior High, and will head back to school this week.
Petaluma Little League president Andrew Lackey said the real celebration of the team's achievements will be a parade in Petaluma this weekend.
The parade is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday, Lackey said.
Petaluma National rallied from a 15-5 deficit on Saturday to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, but the undefeated Goodletsville, Tenn., team responded with nine runs in the top of the seventh inning and won 24-16.
In a consolation game before the world championship on Sunday, Petaluma National defeated a team from Panama -- the runner-up to the Japan team -- 12-4.
"They have nothing to be ashamed about," Petaluma Little League board member Andre Davis said Monday morning. "They're the third-best team in the world and second-best in the United States. I'm OK with that."
The Tennessee team lost 12-2 to the Kitasuna Little League team of Tokyo, Japan, in the world championship game on Sunday. The Japanese team was undefeated in its five Little League World Series games.
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--Bay City News Service