'Twenty-six of the Happiest Faces in America'—Petaluma and Gresham Travel Together

Two teams shared a dorm at the Little League Western tournament and both qualified for the World Series.

Twenty-six excited boys will board a flight out of LAX today—Petaluma National Little League dressed in their green World Series T-shirts and Gresham National Little League in their black version of the shirts—bound for South Williamsport, Pa.

Petaluma represents the West and Gresham, Ore. the Northwest.

"They are 26 of the happiest little faces in America today," a Petaluma parent, Becky Smith, told Patch Sunday morning. "They shared a dorm together in San Bernardino and grew close. They went out with banners and cheered each other on in the games, and they both won. So now they get to fly together. They're so excited."

The boys ages 11 and 12 competed in the at the Little League Western Region Headquarter Complex on Saturday.

Now they'll be up against 14 other teams from around the world, including boys from Texas, Indiana, Nebraska, New England, British Columbia, Mexico, the Carribean, Germany, Uganda, Panama, Chinese Taipei, Japan and the Middle East.

Becky Smith, mother of Hance Smith, shortstop on the Petaluma team, said even the adults are "pretty much overwhelmed" by it all right now. Her husband, Eric Smith, is one of three coaches traveling with the Petaluma team. With the excitement comes the challenge of raising money to go see their boys compete.

"This is a trip of a lifetime," she told Patch. "But the stress level has just increased for all of us. We've just all spent nine days in San Bernardino and now we're looking at about $4,000 per couple for flights and hotel for 10 nights in Williamsport. Hotels in the World Series zone are extremely expensive."

The games are scheduled to begin Thursday and wrap up on Aug. 26.

Petaluma parents will gather Monday night to brainstorm how to raise funds to go. The parents already know each other well. The Smiths believe the Petaluma team's success is due to bonds formed over several years.

"They've been playing together since they were 9 years old," Becky Smith said. "There's no one superstar out there. That puts a lot of pressure on other teams."

Patch will continue to follow this story. You can also follow us by signing up for our emailed morning newsletter and by checking us out on Facebook and Twitter.

If you have photos or video of the games or the teams, feel free to upload them directly to this story. And the boys are now reading these stories as they travel, so you can tell them "Hi" right here in the comments.


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