Jazmine Ayala anticipated a low-key celebration when she and the rest of the Sunnyside Little League softball team returned home to Tucson this afternoon.
Instead, Ayala and the rest of the World Champions were greeted with a celebration that involved hundreds of fans and stretched from the airport to a south side park.
Sunnyside beat McLean, Va., 9-0 in the championship game of the Little League World Series in Portland, Ore., on Wednesday night to win its fifth straight game and become the first ever12-and-under champion from Arizona. Their game aired on ESPN2.
“It doesn’t seem real at all,” said Ayala, who threw a two-hitter in Wednesday’s win. “It seems like a dream or something.”
The party began as soon as the team’s flight touched down at Tucson International Airport.
A water bridge on the tarmac greeted the team when their flight landed. The team was met at the gate by cheering fans and several local officials, including Congressman Raul Grijalva and Pima County District 5 Supervisor Richard Elias.
It didn’t end there.
The team was met by hundreds of relatives and fans at the main exit along with the bands and cheer squads from both Sunnyside and Desert View High schools.
The team then boarded a bus and were escorted by police and a pair of fire engines to Mission Manor Park, where it plays its home games.
Hundreds of supporters, including Mayor Jonathan Rothschild — who gave the players and coaches gift bags — met them at the park.
“When we first won the World Series it didn’t really get to us but when we got here it kind of shocked us a little more,” said Viviana Orantez.
“I was happy because my friends and family were here and all my teammates were happy.
“That’s what makes me happy, when they’re happy.”
Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-7761. On Twitter @DanielGaona13