Sunnyside Little League has captured the attention of Tucsonans, and the notoriety is not going away any time soon.
That’s what happens when a group of 11- and 12-year-olds win in dramatic fashion like what happened last Friday night against Northern California on ESPN with Sunnyside’s walk-off victory in the West Regional semifinals.
The image of Michel Muñiz Jr. — who hit the game-winning double to get Sunnyside into the title game — carried on the shoulders of his teammates in tears will be remembered as one the best moments in Tucson sports history.
Two batters before, Izaiah Moraga, his teammate and Gallego Intermediate classmate, belted the game-tying home run on an 0-1 count with one out. The moon shot carried well over the tents many feet beyond the left field fence.
The ball was not lost, however. A fan retrieved the ball and gave it to Moraga.
The joy ride continues despite the 4-1 loss to Hawaii in the championship last Saturday.
Wednesday night, AllSportsTucson.com threw an appreciation celebration for the team, the families and fans that was hosted by Frog & Firkin restaurant near the entrance of the University of Arizona campus. Frog & Firkin went the extra step and donated funds toward equipment for the Sunnyside Little League baseball program.
“We try to help youth sports in Tucson any way we can because of how important it is for the kids,” said Jody Raetzman, who owns Frog & Firkin with her husband Garrett (they have three sons playing football at Salpointe Catholic).
Tucson City Councilman Richard Fimbres stopped by to present the youths a medal with the city’s logo.
“Education is the key to success and you have to stay at school and do well, so you are eligible to play in high school and other things,” Fimbres said to the players. “I expect great things from you all. … God bless you.”
Thursday night, assistant coach Ernie Moraga, a former Sunnyside Little League and Sunnyside High School standout, and his son Izaiah were guests on Steve Rivera’s Eye on the Ball show.
Steve talks to 1997 Arizona Basketball National Championship winners AJ Bramlett and Jason Terry.
Saturday night at 6, the players will go against their dads in a Wiffleball game at Mission Manor Park (Field No. 5). Former big-leaguer Ed Vosberg, one of only three players in history to play in the Little League World Series, College World Series (with Arizona) and the MLB World Series (with the Marlins) expressed his desire to attend the gathering at Mission Manor and meet the team and coaches.
On Monday at 9 a.m., the team will be honored at the Pima County Board of Supervisor’s meeting.
On Sept. 4, the Tucson City Council meeting will include a tribute to the team.
Arizona president Robert C. Robbins may have something planned for the team at a Wildcat sporting event. He tweeted his support for Sunnyside during its memorable run with the hashtag: #SunnysideNeverQuits.
Huge bottom of the sixth inning clutch win for Sunnyside Little League team tonight we want the whole team to be Wildcats #SunnysideNeverQuits
Sunnyside superintendent Steve Holmes acknowledged Tuesday at the school board meeting the team’s accomplishment and the ability of the Senior and Junior Little League teams to reach their respective regional tournaments as well.
Look for the Sunnyside school board to honor the team at a meeting soon.
The saying goes, “To the victor goes the spoils.” Sunnyside did not win the West Regional title but it won over fans and dignitaries in Tucson because of the determination it showed in the face of elimination — winning three straight games to stay alive — to get into the championship.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.