A week after being crowned U.S. champions at the Cal Ripken 12s World Series, the Kennewick American All-Stars returned home to the cheers of community members Saturday at the Southridge Sports Complex.
The Kennewick American players exited a bus that had their names and numbers painted on the windows, and were immediately greeted and congratulated by members of the Kennewick Police Department. The team then shuffled into the Gesa Carousel of Dreams, where it was congratulated by Kennewick Mayor Steve Young, Police Chief Ken Hohenberg and Fire Chief Vince Beasley.
The gathering of community members and leaders illustrated the significance of Kennewick American’s accomplishment for the program and the city.
“It’s fitting that we’re here at the Carousel of Dreams because this was a community dream and a community vision that you carried out,” Hohenberg said to the players. “This separates Kennewick from other communities in the state and the country.”
Young said the first order of business at the next Kennewick City Council meeting will be to recognize the achievements of the Kennewick American All-Stars by designating a day in their honor. The team will be honored at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at city hall.
Winning a national championship was the culmination of three years of work for this KA team, which finished third at regionals in 2014 and 2015. Over the past three years, the group compiled a record of 96-9.
Kennewick American went 5-1 to win the state championship this year, then won all six of its games at regionals — all but one by 10 or more runs — to advance to the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, Md.
The team went undefeated in its six games against American teams at the World Series, including a 10-2 victory over Pacific Southwest in the U.S. championship game.
Simeon Howard was named the player of the tournament on the U.S. side for setting the World Series record with 13 hits, and Myles Mayovsky and Trevor Ridley were named to the All-World Offensive Team.
“I didn’t know (I was close to breaking the record), and then in the semis, they were like, ‘You’re one hit away,’ ” Howard said. “So my first at-bat, first pitch against Japan, I got the hit — a double.”
Kennewick American’s bid to become world champion was halted by a 7-0 loss to Japan in the tournament final.
During the tournament, Seattle Mariner and former Southridge High School standout Shawn O’Malley sent a congratulatory message to the KA players. There were also viewing parties at bars around town.
“I’m honored to be in the presence of U.S. champions,” Young said. “I’m proud to say I’m the mayor of great kids, great young men.”