For the fourth consecutive year, Rhode Island will be the final stop on nearly a dozen magical summer baseball journeys.
Beginning Saturday, Cranston Western Little League will again host the 9/10 Eastern Region Invitational at Michael P. Varrato Field. State champions from 11 states will converge on a quest for the Eastern Region championship.
With three tournaments worth of great baseball to look back on, the crew at Western is expecting more of the same this year. It’s doubly exciting for Western officials, with new president Steve Piscopiello at the helm and Bob Rocchio taking over the reins as tournament director.
“I think we’re more excited than ever,” Piscopiello said. “Being my first go-round as president, Bob and his committee doing their thing, I think everybody’s excited to put our best foot forward.”
Western has hosted the tournament since its inception in 2010. Along the way – with revenue from the tournament as a driving force – Varrato Field has been transformed from a typical Little League field into a state-of-the art complex that stacks up with any in New England.
In that way, the tournament has been a win-win. Western and the city of Cranston have benefited, while teams have had the opportunity to make lifelong memories.
That part makes all the time and effort worth it.
“It’s rewarding when you see the kids’ faces,” Piscopiello said. “You come to the realization that all the energy, all the effort is going to a worthwhile cause. These kids are having the time of their lives here.”
Teams will begin arriving for the 2013 tournament late this week. A full day of games, plus Opening Ceremonies, awaits on Saturday. Games continue every day next week.
The 11 teams are split into two pool-play brackets – Mid-Atlantic and New England. The top two teams in each pool then play for Mid-Atlantic and New England crowns before the winners meet for the overall Eastern Region championship. The Mid-Atlantic championship is slated for 2 p.m., and the New England championship at 5 p.m., on Friday, August 9. The Eastern Region championship is set for 11 a.m., on Saturday, August 10.
Connecticut teams won the first two titles, while Massachusetts’s Lakeville Little League won the championship last year.
Whichever team emerges this year will join select company. The 2010 tournament champion, Fairfield American, went to the Little League World Series at the 12-year-old level last summer. This year, four leagues from the 2011 Cranston tournament – Lincoln, R.I., Rye, N.H., Saco, Maine, and Berlin, Md., – are headed to Bristol for the 12-year-old Mid-Atlantic and New England Regionals, with spots in Williamsport on the line.
“I think what you see is that the talent at the 9/10-year-old level is very good,” Piscopiello said. “It’s definitely a stepping stone, and I think in the future, you’re going to see the 9/10 level latch on with a World Series too.”
For now, the regional is the top of the ladder, and the 2013 event is ready for show time. Champions have already been crowned in most states. Portsmouth knocked off Cranston Western for the Rhode Island state title. They’ll be joined in the New England bracket by Massachusetts champ North Andover West, Vermont’s South Burlington, New Hampshire champion Bedford plus the Maine and Connecticut champions, which had not been determined at press time.
In the Mid-Atlantic region, a team from Middletown-Odessa-Townsend Little League will represent Delaware for the second straight year. Delmar is the Maryland champ, Monroe Township is the New Jersey champion and Mid-Island is the New York representative. The Pennsylvania champ was still to be determined at press time.
All the teams have had amazing summers to this point, and the trip to Cranston will cap them off. The tournament’s new slogan, “Baseball for a Week, Memories for a Lifetime” rings true.
“We’ve always preached that it’s just a game but that the life lessons, the friendships and the memories last forever,” Piscopiello said. “That’s why it’s so special to have this opportunity for these kids.”
And they’re about to seize that opportunity.
“You’re going to see the truest form of the game,” Piscopiello said. “The kids give their all, the parents and families are spirited, the atmosphere is great. It’s going to be a great week.”
For more information on the tournament, visit the official web site at 910easternregion.wordpress.com, where you can also find live scoring. Beacon Communications will provide coverage of select games on the Cranston Herald website at cranstononline.com.