ARLINGTON -- On the flat screen in a corner of the visitors' clubhouse at Rangers Ballpark on Saturday afternoon, the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Ocean View Little League's most famous alum watched the hometown kids knock off Montana to set up Sunday's grand finale of the Little World Series against Japan in Williamsport, Pa.
"A lot of memories," Hank Conger said, riveted on the action. "We were one game short of making it to Williamsport in 2000. We got beat by Hazeldale, Washington, 3-2, in the regionals in San Bernardino. I was 5-6, 5-7 and 180 pounds. I played shortstop and pitched. Hit 33 homers in 38 games."
When teammate Mark Trumbo arched an eyebrow, Conger said, "Dude, I was humongous when I was 12."
Conger, whose father was forced to change occupations when he refused to stop coaching his son's Little League team, had come close to reaching Williamsport a few years earlier. He remained with his team, the Reds, even though travel ball was starting to take off at the time.
"I really wanted a chance to go all the way like this year's team," Conger said. "Last year's team also missed by a game. They came to see us [at Angel Stadium]. I've met some of the kids in camps."
Soon after Little League, Conger gave up shortstop and the mound for a catcher's responsibilities. The Angels' first-round Draft pick in 2006 out of Huntington Beach High School, the switch-hitter is the team's third catcher, hoping to make a few more memories down the stretch.