They’ve been walking on air for weeks. But less than a month after bringing home the Little League World Series championship, the young All-Stars from El Segundo embarked on a journey that would take them 1,000 feet above their hometown.
“You’ve done many things before, but this is probably better than a few of them, I think,” Louis Lappe, the star player of the storybook squad, said shortly before the ride, “because it’s like going on the plane, but like a luxury plane.”
Brody Brooks, another star on the team, said his parents had already asked him to take photos during the ride.
“It’s pretty unique,” he said. “It’s definitely way bigger in person than I thought it was, just like, looking up.”
On Friday afternoon, at least eight players and three of their coaches from El Segundo Little League boarded the Goodyear Blimp, a semi-rigid airship operated by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
The blimp took off from the company’s Airship Base in Carson. From there, it headed over the Hawthorne Airport and flew towards the southside of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), where the passengers caught glimpses of their El Segundo home fields around 1,000 feet above the ground.
“A lot of big office buildings are 1,000 feet tall,” said Adam Basaran, assistant chief pilot at Goodyear. “So we stay relatively low to the ground, that way people can see the airship, and then when we do this type of passenger ride, you can look down and enjoy that, because everything’s not so tiny that you can’t recognize it.”
Back in August, the El Segundo Little League took home the championship title by defeating Curaçao 6-5 in the Little League World Series finale in Williamsport, Pa.
The 12-player team became the first from California to clinch the title since Huntington Beach’s Ocean View Little League in 2011, and the first in Los Angeles County since Long Beach won the championship in 1993.
They had to overcome many challenges along the way. The team fought its way past more than 440 teams to represent California’s southern region in the United States bracket. They suffered an early loss to a Texas team, which they avenged with a 6-1 victory, capturing the US championship and advancing to the World Series.
With the game against Curaçao tied in the last inning, Lappe,12, hit a walk-off home run, effectively ending the game and bringing home the lauded title.
Since the historic win, the players have enjoyed a hero’s welcome from the tight-knit beachside community. Hundreds of people lined up on El Segundo’s Main Street on Aug. 28, to welcome the team back from Pennsylvania. The town’s residents came out full force on the streets again to cheer the team with an official civic parade on Sept. 10.
And now, the team got to view their hometown from an aerial view on an invitation-only ride. Only 10 passengers and two crew members could ride on a blimp at one time, said Basaran.
Goodyear has a history of providing aerial coverage for the Little League games in Williamsport, but the company’s Carson airship base wanted to extend their own congratulations to their local Little League’s team, he said.
“But more importantly, they are local to the base here, so they just wanted to say, congratulations, and offer them a ride on the airship,” Basaran said.
The team boarded the ships in three flights, and each of the rides lasted 45 minutes. For some of the passengers, it was something they had wanted to do for a long time.
“Actually, I’ve lived here all my life, and you drive by this on the 405 freeway all the time, and you always see it, then you go to a sporting event, and you always see it there, and you are like, wow, how cool would it be to actually go on it one day, and lo and behold, here we are,” said El Segundo Little League Manager Danny Boehle.
“You win the Little League World Series championship, and now you’re here, and now you’re going on the Goodyear blimp with four of your players,” he added.