After Encino Little League’s hugely successful season, some are wondering—is there something in the water?
Written byLinda Grasso
The world watched this summer as the Ocean View Little League, from Huntington Beach, won the Little League World Series. What most people didn’t see was the concentrated dominance of Valley little leaguers throughout the tournament.
It was the Encino Little League (ELL) All Stars (ages 11 to 12) who made it to the Southern California championship against Huntington Beach, accomplishing what no other ELL team had done in 57 years. Long days of practice and big-league talent brought this ELL team to the top of a field of 350 All Star teams representing the region. These ELL players are no strangers to winning; this is the same group of kids that took district and section championships in 2009 and the district championship in 2010.
You might describe the team, viewed as too small to win by opponents, as “the little engine that could.” Some of the biggest home runs this season came from the littlest guys on the roster: Mike Cohen and Jack Scher. The “Big Four”—Justin Greenwald, Jamie Robertson, Seth Stone and Elijah West—led the team with impressive pitching and hitting.
THE ENCINO JUNIORS
“The years of dedication from the players and their families really paid off this summer,” says manager Jeff Cohen. “The kids worked very hard, practicing twice a day all summer long and getting instruction from former pro Reggie Smith and his guys.”
Incredibly, the Encino Little League Juniors (ages 13 to 14) traveled a similar road, also fighting in the Southern California championship game for the first time in league history. Led by Sam Shaikin, Mitch Kerner and Thomas Sprague, the same core team won the district championship for the past two years.
After winning the districts at home in July, the team played their next eight games over a 12-day period in Tehachapi. Manager John Shaikin quips, “That’s a 250-mile round trip!” The team concluded the summer in Riverside. Shaikin says, “The kids and families really gave up their summer to achieve what they did.”
Both ELL teams were ultimately Southern California runners-up, but league president Jane Lewis views both teams as victorious. “It is quite an accomplishment for one of the all-star teams to win the district championship,” she says, “but for two of our teams to end up second in Southern California in the same summer? That’s not even comprehensible!”
Since 1982, young Jewish athletes from all over the world have participated in the Maccabi Games. The Olympic-style competition offers 13 events including baseball. Held in Philadelphia in August, the Los Angeles team, comprised almost entirely of Valley boys—many of them from Encino Little League, was undefeated and took home the gold.
THE ENCINO ALL STARS
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