SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - For now, the parents of the Petaluma National all-stars live in a suspended world of baseball, TV cameos, congratulatory text messages and more baseball.
When they return home to Petaluma, which would be Monday if everything goes according to the Disney script, is when reality will set in -- the piled-up work, the unopened mail, the attention-starved pets, and for at least one woman, an employment search.
"I lost my job during the San Bernardino thing," said Billie Ann Tomei, mother of Cole and wife of assistant coach Trevor Tomei.
Billie Ann had been working as an office manager for a CPA. She had vacation time, but the West regional tournament in San Bernardino came at the wrong time. Her boss was out of the office and needed her to keep things running.
"He wouldn't let me take time off," Tomei said Wednesday, on the eve of a game that could send Petaluma National into the United States championship round. "He told me, 'If you go, write yourself your last check.' So I wrote myself my last check."
Tomei's experience might be the most dramatic, but all of the parents here at the Little League World Series are enduring hardships in the wake of their boys' wild ride.
That's not to say they aren't cherishing the experience, or grateful to the folks back home who have raised money to finance their trips. It's just that 11 days in San Bernardino, followed by a harried trip home and a quick ricochet to central Pennsylvania for who-knows-how-long has left many of them cash-poor (they will be reimbursed for many out-of-pocket expenses), lonely for separated family members and a bit disoriented.
It's hardest for those who left other kids at home, like the Gagos (parents of Quinton), the Moores (parents of Dylan), the Slates (parents of Porter) and the Buhrers (parents of Blake).
School started Wednesday in Petaluma. It's bad enough for the Little Leaguers to miss their first few days, especially Quinton Gago, who is transferring to Petaluma Junior High this year. Some parents decided it would be too much to ask siblings to do the same.
Being three time zones away from a child on her first day of school has proved to be an emotional absence for Heather Slate. Her daughter Kendall, starting her freshman year at Petaluma High, is staying with close family friends. Heather's mom jumped in to take Kendall to an orthodontic appointment.
She's well taken care of, but the Slates have hardly seen her for three weeks. Kendall didn't make the trip to Southern California, either.
"I definitely miss the mom-daughter thing right now," Heather Slate said. "I promised her a mom-daughter trip after we all get back."
Jessie Moore, Dylan's father, can relate. His son Tyler, a sophomore at Casa Grande, joined the family on the trip here, but flew home by himself Monday.
"We always take a picture of our kids on the first day of school," Jessie said. "Now I guess we'll have to do it the second week this time. It was a little tough dropping him off at the airport."
Kids aren't the only ones being temporarily abandoned.
"Our poor cat," Tina Stevens, Bradley Smith's mom, said with a laugh. "It's just Bradley and me, and he's our only child. Oh my God, we sincerely love our cat. We send each other pictures."
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