When the Belmont-Redwood Shores All Stars were putting the finishing touches on an 8-1 win over Arizona in the semifinals of the Little League Western Regional tournament, only one thought crossed my mind: I’m heading to San Bernardino, home of the tournament.
When BRS first qualified for the regional playoffs, I floated the idea to my boss that I would be willing to go to Southern California if Belmont-Redwood Shores made it to the championship game.
It did and I did. I left home about 5:50 a.m. Saturday and returned home about 2:15 p.m. Sunday. Between, I drove more than 800 miles in roughly 12 hours while also covering the championship game, which BRS lost 9-0 to Chula Vista.
While it wasn’t the outcome the Peninsula baseball community wanted — nor did I — it was quite an adventure. The following are some observations I had during my whirlwind trip to San Bernardino.
If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I hope to come back in my next life as a race car driver. The hardest thing for me to do on long road trips is to resist the urge to drive faster than everyone else on the road — especially when they pass me.
Having recently gotten a speeding ticket, my lead foot has lightened up a bit over the last month or so. But if you’ve ever driven on Interstate 5, you know it is essentially a super speedway. The speed limit says 70, but that is really the minimum because if you’re only doing 70, you will be run over.
So on the way down South, I set my cruise control at 79, thinking less than 10 miles over the limit would give me a break with CHP. It worked fine — for about 60 miles. But as the sun came up, so did the traffic and 79 just wouldn’t cut it.
As I constantly found myself moving over a lane to let others pass, I threw caution to the mind and bumped my speed up. Eighty mph seems to be the sweet spot as the number of cars going around me were few and far between after that. Most others were content at 80 and as long as I was going with the flow, I figured I was safe.
On the way back north, I set the cruise control at 80 and made it back home in about five and half hours. Ticket free, I’m happy to say.
This was the first time I’ve ever been to San Bernardino, which is northeast of Los Angeles. It was also the first time I had ever been to Southern California and not gone to Los Angeles proper or Orange County.
It offered me the opportunity to know where cities are of which I had only heard. Drove through Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl. Irwindale? The proposed site of a new Raiders stadium that never came to fruition. Fontana? Home of the California Speedway. San Dimas? Home of Bill and Ted from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
I must say the volunteer staff at Little League’s West headquarters were top notch, especially pertaining to media relations. When I contacted them about media credential last week, I was told to go to the press box at Al Houghton Stadium and show them my press pass. When I arrived, my name wasn’t on the list, which is usually a bad sign.
But after talking with “Chuck” and explaining to him what happened, he quickly added me to the list and gave me my credential.
He then gave me a rundown of media protocol: where I could and could not be, where I could stand to take pictures and how the interview process would work after the game. All of which was very reasonable and in fact, media friendly.
Even when my interview with Belmont-Redwood Shores’ Brad Shimabuku was cut short after one question, “Dick,” another media relations member, was almost apologetic.
“I’m sorry,” Dick said. “But you can’t interview players from the losing team until after an hour after the game. I should have told you that before.”
No problem, I said. At least he wasn’t a jerk about it, unlike other media administrators with whom I sometimes deal.
I wanted to give a special shoutout to Jazmin, the bartender/server at Don Martin Mexican Grill and Sports Bar, which was across the street from the motel in which I was staying. She was, without question, the hardest working restaurant staffer I’ve ever seen. Not only did she handle all the action in the bar area, but also worked in the main dining room. She was my server during lunch around noontime and, when I decided I would have dinner there at about 9 p.m., she was still there.
After ordering a post-game beverage and some dinner, she informed the rest of her co-workers that a party of 35 would be coming in — which happened to be the Belmont-Redwood Shores contingent.
Jazmin was literally running between the bar and dining room, trying to keep everybody happy. While there were a couple of others working with her, she appeared to be doing the bulk of the work — keeping bar patrons’ pints filled while also dealing with the BRS party and others in the main dining room.
With the tips I left, I told her, “You keep this all for you. Don’t share it with anyone,” which goes against restaurant protocol in which servers usually have to share their tips with others. But given how hard she worked, she deserved to keep every cent she made in tips.
So if you ever find yourself in San Bernardino, check out Don Martin. Good food and a great server — if she doesn’t quit because of being overworked.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.