Johnston Celebrates Little League World Series squad

Team won two games in tournament play

By Jacob Peklo | jpeklo@weareiowa.com

Published 08/28 2016 10:33PM

Updated 08/28 2016 10:33PM

JOHNSTON - It was a long journey from Central Iowa to Williamsport, Pa.

"We did come in as the underdog and I’m so proud of them for not letting that get in their heads, playing their hardest, being determined,” said Jen Garcia, J.T.’s mother.

On Sunday, they were welcomed home, parading down the street, behind a police escort.

"The support has just been overwhelming, overwhelming,” said Duane Pineda, the coach of the Johnston Little League team.

More than 900 miles separate these two cities, but the experience has brought this team of middle schoolers closer than ever before.

"I just want to tell you guys, I love every single one of you and I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I hope you do too."

National analysts quickly grew to love their breed of baseball.

"Obviously, (we enjoyed) the experience that they had playing baseball, but more importantly the relationships that they made even not on this team, but throughout this whole trip,” said Pineda.

During their tournament run, they won two games in pool play, a record for Midwestern squads since the format changed in 2001, but perhaps even more important than their record on the field, the stories behind it.

"Every step was different, and it was new and exciting,” said Pineda. “We had no idea."

While being interviewed on TV, Jen Garner's son JT hit a home run.

“To hear that ball hit that bat was just incredible,” she said. “Being able to see his face and how proud and excited he was, to see him fulfill his dream to be there and then to see him hit a home run, it was just incredible,” said Garner.

And while their experience to Williamsport may have ended just short of their ultimate goal of a title, what they're coming home with will never be forgotten.           

"We realized when we got home summer was over, school's starting,” said Garner. “So, it's a little bit of an adjustment, but nothing we wouldn't do again."

 

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