When Louis Lappe swung his way into the history books on Sunday afternoon, his team’s major-league cheerleader and honorary equipment manager witnessed it in real time…on his phone, in transit, in the very same state.

“When they hit that walk-off, we were on the bus heading to the airport,” Lars Nootbaar said on Monday.

That would be Philadelphia International Airport, as Nootbaar’s Cardinals had just completed a series against the Phillies. And that of course would be Lappe’s sixth-inning blast that gave El Segundo, Nootbaar’s childhood alma mater, the 2023 Little League World Series championship in Williamsport, Pa with a 6-5 win over Curacao.

The moment proved especially sweet and satisfying for Lars, who had played for the previously most successful El Segundo Little League club and took pride in providing both remote pep talks and in-person swag for his spiritual descendants.

“I’m so freaking proud of you guys,” Lars, wearing a “City of El Segundo” cap, said in a message he recorded on his phone and sent to the team after it qualified for the World Series. “I’ll be watching you guys the rest of the way. I’m going to be bragging in the clubhouse for sure. So keep making me proud. Keep making El Segundo proud. I’ll be rocking you guys. I’ll be repping you guys. So keep doing it, man. You guys are so close. Keep going.”

They kept going, far beyond the peak set by Lars’ group 13 years ago, which finished a win short of reaching the West Region Tournament. This current team, managed by Danny Boehle, notched another month’s worth of wins and will celebrate for many months before the next loss.

“When they see Lars, he’s family,” Boehle said Tuesday of his young charges. “We went on Rich Eisen’s show, and when he asked them to name their favorite player, three of them said Lars.”

El Segundo, a beach community with an announced 2021 population of 16,898 people, takes its baseball very seriously. The Little League program’s alumni list includes Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett and his brother Ken Brett, as well as the late Ken Brett’s fellow big-league pitchers Scott McGregor and Billy Traber (who currently coaches the El Segundo High School varsity program). Lars’ mother Kumi taught many of the championship players in pre-school, and Lars remembers his mom filing this scouting report about three years ago: “Hey, this kid Brody Brooks, I had him in pre-school. He’s gonna be a good athlete. Watch.” Those who watched, saw Brooks excel as both a hitter and a pitcher.

George Brett sent along an inspirational message, as did Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a few of his players to their hometown team. Lars, who recorded a pair of messages—the first entering the West Region and the second entering the LLWS—sent along some material goods, to boot. With the help of company founder Bear Mayer and head of pro player engagement Marc Zwerdling, Lars arranged for a shipment of BRUCE BOLT batting gloves and arm sleeves to the team. Watch the footage of Lappe’s homer and you’ll notice his golden gloves popping, as well as those of his teammates.

When the shipment came, “The guys just freaked out,” Boehle said. “Everybody wore the gold arm sleeves and the gold batting gloves. It was awesome.”

“It felt like once I was in high school, El Segundo was kind of losing its baseball feel,” Lars said. “And now that we have this 12-year-old team that came through and won a Little League World Series, from what I'm hearing back home, how I feel now, it’s given this town a different spark and a new kind of feel. I kind of hope there’s a bright future in baseball on its way up.”

Lars already brought his hometown some notice and some bling when he represented the champion Team Japan in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, becoming the first player born outside Japan to play for the club in the WBC (Kumi Nootbaar was born in Japan). It’s a good year to be from El Segundo.

“Go out there and have fun, man,” Lars told his young townmates in his first message. “You’ll never forget it.” Neither, you can bet, will Lars.

Comments

  • Cesar Salazar said:

    Congrats to El Segundo! my son is 10yrs old and currently a little league player at Granada Hills little league we won the little league World Series back in 1963 when the dodgers win there 1st Los Angeles World Series but this is a great and exciting year for El Segundo putting SO.CAL with 2 little league World Series champs congrats again ⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️

    September 05, 2023


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