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Recent talk in Chula Vista’s athletic circles has focused on where the Blue Bombers — the players on the Park View Little League champion team and the city’s newest celebrities — will be headed for high school.
Since they won the Little League World Series title in August, the middle school boys have seen the world open up to them.
Local organizations and national corporations have clamored to sponsor the team. The players are set to be inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions next month. On Feb. 4, they’ll travel to Washington, D.C., to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
And for some of the team’s eighth graders, the newfound celebrity may also help pave the way out of the local public school system and into one of the region’s private Catholic high schools, known for both their academic rigor and their reputations as athletic powerhouses.
On Saturday, several of the team’s eighth graders took the High School Placement Test, the standardized exam required for admission to San Diego’s private high schools. At least one family said it wouldn’t have considered private schools if the team hadn’t won the World Series.
“We don’t make that kind of money, so probably not,” said Ric Ramirez, a Park View coach and the father of Luke, the team’s 6-foot-tall, 200-pound star pitcher. Ramirez spoke cautiously. Where the region’s best student athletes attend high school can be a sensitive topic because of strict rules governing high school recruitment.
Interscholastic rules prohibit recruitment by schools or any contact by athletic departments before a student enrolls.
Ramirez said he had not been directly contacted by private schools about his son, but that “because of his exposure, opportunities could be out there.”
“It’s a really sensitive question,” he said. “We want what’s best for our kids, and the parents, from what I understand, have been the ones trying to get information on maybe having their kids go to these schools.”
Private schools, attuned to the sensitivities, often tread a fine line when interacting with prospective student athletes. The schools are not allowed to exert “undue influence” to attract a student to their athletic programs, but can take a child’s range of experiences under consideration when offering admission or financial assistance.
Rod Roberto, Park View Little League’s president and the father of the championship team’s right fielder, Bradley, said discussion among parents about sending their children to private schools started soon after the team returned home as champions.
“People were saying we should look at the private schools,” which include Mater Dei Catholic High School in Chula Vista, St. Augustine in North Park, and Cathedral Catholic in Carmel Valley, he said.
As their children have excelled together, Park View parents have also developed close friendships, Roberto said. Some of their children have played together since they joined the league five years ago. If they went to public schools, some children would be split up at different high schools. When they considered the option of sending their children to the same private school where residential boundaries don’t apply, their minds raced with possibilities.
“We talked about it and thought, ‘What if we can keep the kids together? What if they won the state championship?’” Roberto said.
Acting on the wishes of the other parents, Roberto said, he reached out to the local private schools on their behalf. “I asked what the process was for getting our kids in.”
He and other parents have gone to open house events and been impressed by the facilities and the possibility of attending, he said.
The team was invited to perform the coin flip at the Mater Dei-St. Augustine football game in September, a gesture that did not escape notice from coaches at the public schools the boys will attend if they don’t leave for private ones.
“The private schools in the area have an upper hand with these kids because they can offer them something,” said Vincent Gervais, baseball coach at Bonita Vista High School. “I can show interest by shaking their hands, but I don’t really have anything to offer.”
But the private schools’ interaction with the players has been no different from any other local organization’s, Roberto said. He said neither he nor any of the other parents, to his knowledge, had been directly contacted by private schools about their children.
“Wherever we go, there’s a sense that everyone wants to be near the kids,” he said. “The private schools are no different.”
Admissions directors at Mater Dei High School and St. Augustine High School did not return phone calls. At Cathedral Catholic High School, an assistant to the admissions director said information about applications for admission was private, and would not comment, except to say the school does not offer athletic scholarships.
Roberto acknowledged that the kids’ celebrity had “opened doors, baseball talent-wise and educationally.”
“If it opens up an opportunity for them, we have to consider it,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”