Pearland youngsters off to Pennsylvania for Little League World Series

A sendoff party was held Thursday for the all-star baseball team from Pearland Little League, which has been showered with support from the Greater Houston community.

Pearland Little League
Shavonne Herndon
Pearland Little League gets a $20,000 check to help cover travel expenses for their trip to the Little League World Series. The check was part of a sendoff event on August 11, 2022.

School starts next Wednesday in Pearland ISD. A talented group of pre-teens from the Houston suburb already know they'll be late to class – maybe by more than a week.

The all-star baseball team from Pearland Little League begins play next Thursday in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. And depending on how the team fares in the nationally televised, double-elimination tournament, which has its championship game scheduled for Aug. 28, it might be a little while before the kids return home and start the new school year.

"That's awesome. That might be the best part," joked Jackson Wolfe, a pitcher and second baseman for the team. "I don't want to meet teachers. I don't want to do that."

The Pearland community held a sendoff party for the little leaguers on Thursday night at the Pearland High School football stadium. It was an encouraging, awe-inspiring event, according to Wolfe and some of his teammates, who flew to Pennsylvania on Friday morning to begin preparations for competing on the grandest stage in youth sports.

The team has been showered with support from the Greater Houston community since qualifying for the Little League World Series on Tuesday, when Pearland won 9-4 in the Southwest Region Championship game against a team from Tulsa, Oklahoma. The local little leaguers were treated to a Houston Astros game by Gallery Furniture owner Jim "Mattress Mack" McIngvale, and among those who have chipped in to help with travel expenses are the Astros Foundation and Texas grocery chain H-E-B, according to multiple reports.

Pearland Little League Sendoff
Shavonne Herndon
Community members packed the football stadium at Pearland High School on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, for a sendoff event for Pearland Little League. The team will compete in the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

"All the support is fantastic," team member Manny Castillo said at Thursday's sendoff. "All of us are really thankful for everyone coming out here. It's super helpful for the team. It helps morale a lot."

The Pearland team, which was known as Texas East during the Southwest Region tournament and will be called Southwest in the Little League World Series, is undefeated in tournament play. The team swept through the regional tournament with a 4-0 record, winning its games by a combined score of 48-10.

"This team's probably one of the best teams I've ever been on," Corey Kahn said. "The coaches are great, and it's just a really cool experience."

Pearland Little League is making its fourth appearance in the Little League World Series since 2010 and searching for its first championship. Its opening game in this year's tournament is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 against the team from the Mid-Atlantic region, and will be broadcast on ESPN2.

Pearland Little League Celebration
Shavonne Herndon
A fan of Pearland Little League all-star Manny Castillo holds a sign at a sendoff for the team on Aug. 11, 2022.

The Little League World Series was last played in its traditional format in 2019, with the 2020 event being cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic and last year's tournament limited to teams from the United States. International teams will return this year, and the field also has been expanded from 16 to 20 teams.

Earning a trip to Pennsylvania has been a goal for the Pearland little leaguers since last summer, when some of them competed on a team that placed second in Texas in a lower age group.

So the start of school can wait.

"I always dreamed of going to Williamsport," Castillo said. "So as soon as I turned 12, I was like, ‘I know what I want to do. I want to go to Williamsport, I want to win the world series, and I want to do it with all my friends.' "