Family ties

Phillip Brents

Wed June 25, 2014 2:58pm

Eastlake resident Ron Pietila’s name is synonymous with being the godfather of high school girls soccer in San Diego County. Few may realize, however, that he is also the grandfather of greatness.
It was under Pietila’s guidance that girls soccer made its debut as an official sports within the San Diego Section in 1982. He was then coaching at Southwest High School and led the Raiders to back-to-back finalist appearances in the 1984 and 1985 Class 2A section championship games.
Subsequent coaching stints took him to Bonita Vista and Otay Ranch high schools where his teams also found success on the pitch. The 1988 and 1990 BVHS teams recorded runner-up finishes in the Class 3A section finals while the 1992, 1993, 1999 and 2000 Barons teams posted second-place finishes in the Division I championship matches.
He is also the founder of the illustrious Barons Girls High School Soccer Tournament, the largest of its kind in the state.
The grand man of soccer retired permanently from coaching after last season’s tournament. He now has ample time to follow the sporting exploits of his grandchildren, who have built on his legacy.
Pietila has seven grandchildren through his three daughters — Tyler and Ronnie Beeson from daughter Lori; Dylan, Haydn and Elijah Christensen from daughter Kelly; and Micah and Kelii Wiggs from daughter Ronne.
Tyler played lacrosse at Bonita Vista High School while Ronnie currently plays soccer there.
Dylan and Haydn both starred in softball at Eastlake High School while Elijah is a youth baseball standout at Eastlake Little League, helping the league’s 10-under all-star squad record a meteoric second-place finish at last summer’s Division III Southern California state championships.
And, yes, Micah is that Micah from Eastlake Little League’s U.S. national championship Little League World Series team of last summer that grabbed headlines around the world. Kelii, Micah’s younger brother, appears to be the latest of the Pietila clan poised to write his won personal history as a member of last year’s Eastlake Little League 8-under Tournament of Champions team.
Grandpa Ron is obviously proud and with good reason.
He also has his own story to tell. He and his father Frank were part of a World Series run in 1962, with Frank as coach and Ronnie, as he was known then, as one of the team’s standout players.
The younger Pietila also later coached in the Casey Stengel World Series. It’s quite a family tradition.
“I remember well the excitement that was generated by the National City / Paradise Hills communities when our Nat-Par PONY team earned a spot in the World Series in 1962,” Pietila recalled.  “These types of experiences are extraordinary.” 
That Nat-Par PONY team was pretty extraordinary in its own right, fashioning a 15-game winning streak before settling for a third-place finish in the PONY World Series.
Like every championship run, talent wasn’t always enough. Sometimes teams had to make their own luck. Sometimes out of nothing.
In an era without home computers, digital cameras, fax machines (or even microwave ovens), one of the few mementoes that remains to stand witness to those heroic events is a black and white team photograph.
And yellowed newspaper clippings.
Ron Pietila was the only team member to play baseball at the collegiate level. He later played professionally at the minor league level before becoming a teacher and coach.
“Future athletic paths are extremely difficult to predict,” he said. “It is remarkable how all of the grandkids have done so well with the bat and ball.”
Ron said it’s been a pleasure watching his grandchildren compete. He traveled to South Williamsport last summer to watch Micah compete in the Little League World Series.
“It was exactly what you expect,” he said. “It was green, the fields were well groomed, and the stands were packed with people — thousands of people were at the games.”
And Micah and his teammates took center stage. The California Golden Boys’ run even amazed Grandpa Ron.
“There were so many hazards along the way, it really could have ended at any time,” he said.
With his shaggy blond hair, Micah quickly became the 2013 LLWS media darling. His talent with the bat and glove was a mighty help too.
“He led the Little League World Series in hits — 12 hits in six games,” Grandpa Ron noted. “He was the best Little League player in the world at that time.”
Sister act
Actually, exceling athletically has become a family tradition. Haydn is off to DePaul University on a softball scholarship to join older sister Dylan, who is also on a scholarship there.
Dylan earned honors as Eastlake High School’s 2012-13 Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year; Haydn earned honors as the school’s 2013-14 Female Scholar-Athlete.
Grandpa Ron noted it’s a difficult achievement to earn an athletic scholarship and also be blessed with great academics.
Haydn, who led the Titans this past spring with a .422 hitting average and 25 RBI, said it’s a delicate balance between the two.
“It forces you to manage your time well,” she said. “It makes you prioritize things in your life.”
Obviously, Haydn said she is excited about joining her sister in Chicago. “We’ve been playing for some time together, both in softball and soccer, while growing up. She’s not only been a teammate but my best friend, so it’s special to go on to play with her at the next level.”
To say that Dylan had a remarkable freshman season at DePaul might be an understatement. The former Titan standout was named the Big East Rookie of the Year after turning in a .449 hitting average and 20 RBI during league play for the conference champion Blue Demons. The DePaul coaching staff is obviously looking forward to having Haydn join the program after recruiting her as a junior.
Both sisters have been coached at EHS by their father Lance, who has also signed to coach varsity football at Otay Ranch High School this fall. Lance and Kelly said they are pleased that both their daughters will be attending the same college.
“It’s great from our standpoint in that both will be back there looking after each other,” Lance said.
Haydn would like to become a large animal veterinarian some day. “I’m happy to be attending DePaul and to have all what the school can offer me,” she said.
Being homesick shouldn’t be a problem. “When you play sports, it’s like having another family,” Haydn explained. “When I get to college, it will be a new home — it will be like having a new family.”