California LLWS team rallies behind monkey mascot

California LLWS team rallies behind monkey mascot

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Monkeying around goes with the territory at the Little League World Series, but the California team has taken things to extremes. The West Region champs from Sweetwater Valley Little League in Bonita, Calif., decided they needed a little inspiration, and one lucky monkey fit the bill.

"We decided that it would be great to have a mascot," said Kelly Lannom, whose son Walker plays on the team. "So I brought [the monkey] home and put him on the shelf, and Walker said, 'That's our monkey -- we've got to have that.' Ever since then, he's been to every game."

How one lucky monkey inspired a team to the World Series

The boys from Bonita rallied around their monkey with a convincing 14-2 opening-game victory against the Great Lakes team on Friday, in which they pounded out 11 hits in a mercy-rule-shortened contest. They touch the monkey's tail before their at-bats, a good-luck ritual that has apparently translated well to their games in Williamsport.

"Our record was 16-0 [in our first 16 games] with the monkey," West manager Ward Lannom said before his club took the field in the LLWS. "We hit 71 home runs with the monkey. We have a batting average that's over .500 through the first 16 games with the monkey. This monkey, you can guarantee, will be escorted down into the dugout, on the fence, ready to go."

The Sweetwater Valley team lost its second LLWS game to a hot-hitting Pearland West Little League (Texas) team, 8-4, but they hoped the monkey magic would come back for their elimination game against the New England Region champs from Cranston, R.I., on Monday night.

No matter the result, the boys will remember their time in Williamsport, and they'll know their lucky monkey was with them every step of the way.

"He's been in our dorms at Western Region, he sits on my desk here, [and] he was in the cockpit on the jet on the way over here," Ward Lannom said. "Jim Leyland got a picture of him with the World Series ring on his finger. I mean, this guy is popular." 

Mike McCormick is the editorial director for Major League Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.