As a new season begins, an era comes to an end. The Petaluma National All-Stars Little League team, that made it to the World Series last year, is now passing the torch to the next hopeful champs.
They say it's bittersweet. They know they're inspiring the younger generation, but they wish their victory lap wasn't over yet.
"It's absolutely crazy how we get to just come here and be ourselves at baseball again," player Kempton Brandis said. "And be able to watch the younger kids grow and for us to be role models for them."
Fellow player Quinton Gago added, "I guess we can say we're the fire in their bellies. But I know that once this whole thing's over, then all those kids will have their own fire in their bellies."
The momentum on the fields at Petaluma Junior High School is undeniable; it's still full of residual energy from last season, when the All-Stars ranked third in the world and second in the country.
This is the first year Kelly Smith signed up her son for Little League, "He's really, really excited," she said. "It's like Christmas around our house, and I think Petaluma going to the World Series really helped with the excitement of that."
For Jim Seltsam's son, the All-Stars victorious year kept him on the diamond, "Last year he was a little hesitant if he wanted to keep playing baseball, but after the West Team did what they did in the Little League World Series, he's totally got the fever now," he said. "It kinda put the town on the map again for all the right reasons."
All 13 of the players from the World Series team are now playing on traveling teams. The 7th and 8th graders tell me they most look forward to playing locally again in high school.