For most 12-year-olds entering seventh grade, August is filled with anxiety: worrying about what middle school will be like, meeting new people and leaving the protective bubble known as elementary school.
But for sophomore Pierce Tujo, August of 2010 brought an entirely different, once-in-a-lifetime experience: representing Europe in the 2010 Little League World Series.
Because his father, Col. Charlie Tujo, is in the Air Force, Tujo has bounced around from place to place throughout his life. He was born in Hawaii, but spent the majority of his childhood in Vacaville, and then moved in 2007 to a rural area in Germany that is 15 minutes from Ramstein Air Base.
“I preferred life in Germany a lot more; the culture is really different (in Germany),” Tujo said. “It’s a lot more calm and there’s a lot of farmland, so I could play baseball whenever I wanted.”
According to Tujo, living on an air base was just like living an average life. He ate, attended school and played his two favorite sports: baseball and basketball.
But during the summer, all-star baseball consumed his life. Tujo and his teammates practiced three hours a day, every day (with an occasional Sunday off) in preparation for the district, sectional and regional tournaments.
Despite the rigorous preparation, before district play began, Tujo thought that reaching the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., was just a dream. But he knew he and his teammates could do something special after just their first game.
“We 10-run-ruled the other team in the first game, and in the championship game of the district tournament,” Tujo recalled.
Although most of his motivation came from his desire to get to Williamsport, Tujo also had another wellspring to draw from.
He learned that he would be moving back to America after the team’s run was over, meaning that summer would be the last with his teammates and close friends from Germany. His mother, sister and younger brother already had moved to Davis where they expected Tujo and his father to join them shortly after.
“(My parents) telling me that we were going to move motivated me to work harder,” Tujo said. “I just wanted to stay alive (in the tournaments).”
Ramstein Air Base’s team continued to fight, and despite losing the first game in the sectional tournament, they fought their way back to the championship game, and punched their ticket to Williamsport after just seven games.
Although Tujo’s stay at Williamsport was short (three games), he still created memories that will last a lifetime.
Upon arrival in Williamsport, Tujo received two free bats, a free pair of cleats and his jersey. He also had to fill out a questionnaire from ESPN so that viewers would be able to get to know Pierce Tujo a little bit better.
All of the teams stay in the dorms during their stay in Williamsport, where the boys interact with players from other countries by enjoying ping pong and video games together.
Tujo still keeps in touch with the teams from the Dominican Republic, Chinese Taipei and Saudi Arabia through Facebook. The language barrier presumably would pose a problem, but according to Tujo, language wasn’t a problem.
“Most of the kids could speak pretty good English,” Tujo said. “There were a few kids who couldn’t speak English very well, but it didn’t really matter.”
Along with making connections with kids from other parts of the world, Tujo also got to have small taste of the life of a professional athlete. He and his teammates were brought to games in a bus that traveled under the stadium and were not allowed to talk to anybody before or after games. In fact, his own parents barely got to see their son.
“I didn’t see him (Tujo) at all, except on the field,” said Pierce’s mom Tammy. “It was pretty amazing, I mean they were mauled by kids saying, ‘Can I have your autograph?’ or ‘Oh you’re the shortstop for Europe!’ so I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is really crazy.’ ”
Not only was Tujo a mini-celebrity off the field, but on the field, crowds flocked to the two stadiums in Williamsport to watch the competition. Lamade Stadium can seat up to 15,000 people (40,000 counting the lawn seats), and Volunteer Stadium holds up to 5,000 people in the stands.
Tujo also was featured in the “top 10 plays” segment on “SportsCenter,” when he turned a bare-handed double play (a huge feat when factoring in the significantly shorter base paths in Little League baseball).
Although the team’s run ended after just three games, Tujo’s Little League World Series experience was not over.
Before coming to Davis, he took a detour to Yankee Stadium where the boys from Ramstein Air Base were invited to join the New York Yankees on the field during Military Appreciation Night. Tujo met all-time Yankee greats Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, current star Robinson Cano, former Oakland Athletic Nick Swisher and current Yankee manager Joe Girardi.
As great as his experience in Williamsport was, that part of Tujo’s life is now in the past as he gets ready to leave his mark on Davis High athletics. He plans to play both junior varsity basketball and baseball this year.
Notes: Tujo has two younger siblings: Angelica and Jacob. Charlie Tujo currently works at Travis Air Base, while Tammy is a stay-at-home mom. When Tujo isn’t on the diamond or the court, he enjoys biking, hanging out with his friends and watching his three favorite teams: the Oakland Athletics, the Sacramento Kings and the Seattle Seahawks.