A group of young softball players got a homecoming fit for champions Sunday at Tampa International Airport. They're not just any champions. They are world champions.
The South Tampa All-Stars won the Junior Softball League World Series Saturday in Washington State.
From the moment these girls stepped foot on a field, every swing and every pitch has been for this.
"We accomplished our dreams that we have been trying to get since we started playing little league when we were 6-7 years old," player MacKenzie Herman said.
This weekend, All-Stars journeyed across the country to Kirland, Washington, to complete against players from across the world.
"We have been working for 4 months straight and 4 years in the making," said player Kaitlyn Powers.
"We were out there every day at 7 a.m. or 6:30 at night. It was a lot of hard work but it was worth it," said Herman.
On Saturday, it came down to South Tampa and The Philippines. At a Beef O'Brady's victory party, Herman described that incredible moment when they knew they had it. Fittingly, Queen's "We Are the Champions" played in the background.
"When we had one out left, I am in the outfield, looking at Olivia the shortstop, smiling at her, saying 'one more, one more,'" Herman recalled. "Cassidy catches that ball and I started crying right then and there and I am like, I have got to go tackle everybody. Best feeling ever."
"Just complete astonishment and excitement and just so thrilled for these girls just knowing how hard they worked," said parent Miriam Lopez.
At 12 to 14 years old, they're not just the best in Tampa, not just the best in Florida, or even the U.S. They're the Junior Softball World Series champs, for the second time in three years. Final score: South Tampa, 9, The Philippines, 2.
It's not just how they perform on the field that brings their manager such pride.
"The way they've handled themselves with such class and poise," said Manager Bo Longshore. "Everywhere we went, different teams and people in charge of tournaments told us they are so well-behaved."
Though it'll be soon time for high school ball, for now, they celebrate.
"We said we were going to do it and do it big and that's exactly what we did. We went and won it all and we are never going to forget," Powers said.