For the third year in a row, the best 9/10-year-old Little League baseball teams in the New England and Mid-Atlantic Regions will converge on Rhode Island for the East Region Invitational. The 2012 tournament begins this Saturday and concludes on Saturday, August 4.
Cranston Western Little League will once again play host, and the tournament will be held at Michael P. Varrato Field on Hope Road.
Though Western officials are now veterans when it comes to planning the event, the anticipation is still there.
“We’re obviously excited to host the tournament again,” said tournament director Dennis DeJesus. “The preparation and the committee work has been comprehensive. A lot of people are involved, a lot of people want to help out. We’re just trying to put on the best tournament we can. I think as a league, we’re really looking forward to it.”
Western officials first put in a bid to host the tournament back in 2010. When the league was chosen as the site, the goal was to turn Cranston into the premier destination for 9/10 baseball in the East Region, in the same way that Bristol is the Mecca for 12-year-olds.
So far, so good. Varrato Field has been transformed into one of the top Little League facilities in the region, and the 9/10 tournament keeps coming back.
“As an organization, we love it,” DeJesus said. “We love Little League baseball, and for us, it’s an opportunity to put together a real quality tournament for the best teams in the region.”
Champions from 11 states will begin arriving later this week. Saturday features a full slate of games starting at 10:30 a.m. Opening ceremonies will be held at 6 p.m. followed by a 7:30 match-up between Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“It’s great baseball,” DeJesus said. “You’re bringing in 9 and 10-year-olds and people say, ‘Well, how good can they be?’ But you see good fundamental baseball teams and they’ve played a lot of games to earn the right to be here. There’s a lot of excitement.”
Johnston Little League will represent Rhode Island in the tournament, the third different league to qualify in three years. Cranston Western won the state championship and qualified for the inaugural tournament in 2010. Lincoln was the Rhode Island representative in 2011.
Johnston won the District 1 tournament over Cranston American then captured the state title with a victory over Smithfield last week.
Johnston will be joined by the champions from the five other New England states – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Those six teams will compete in pool play, with the top two advancing to the New England championship on Friday.
The five Mid-Atlantic teams – Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey – will compete in a separate pool, and the top two teams from that region will play for the Mid-Atlantic title on Friday.
The New England and Mid-Atlantic champions will play for the East Region title on Saturday, August 4 at 11 a.m. That round of the tournament has yielded some great moments in the tournament’s first two years. Connecticut’s Fairfield American won the 2010 title and Waterford South captured last year’s crown.
“You’ve got the same quality teams throughout the tournament, but now when you get to that game, you’re representing six states and countless Little Leagues,” DeJesus said. “You are the top dog, and you see some very good baseball.”
In all, it should be a full week of good baseball. There will be games every day, beginning in the morning and running into the evening. There is no admission charge.
The Cranston Herald will provide coverage of the tournament in print and online at cranstononline.com. For more information on the tournament, visit cranstonboundbaseball.com.