By LISA CAPOBIANCO
Teams from New England and the Mid-Atlantic will soon hit the field for the 2015 Little League Baseball Eastern Regional Tournament, scheduled to kick off this Monday at the Bartlett Giamatti Little League Training Center.
The annual tournament is expected to bring thousands of spectators from around the region as 12 Little League teams compete for the 2015 Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
So far, champions scheduled to compete in this year’s tournament include Capitol City Little League of Washington D.C., MOT Little League of Delaware, Delmar Little League, Maryland, Newtown Southeast Little League of Massachusetts, Bidderford Little League of Maine, Cranston Western Little League of Rhode Island, and Bedford Little League of New Hampshire. Champions from Connecticut, New York and New Jersey also will compete in the tournament.
The teams will arrive on Saturday, and opening ceremonies will take place on Sunday. A total of 20 games will be played, and all will be broadcast live on ESPN (14 games will appear on ESPN 3 and six games will appear on ESPN). The last game is scheduled for Aug. 16.
Two teams (one from New England and one from the Mid-Atlantic) will make it to the World Series, which begins on Sunday, Aug. 30.
Last year, the Cumberland American Little League of Rhode Island ended up competing in the World Series, as well as the Taney Youth Baseball Association Little League of Pennsylvania, which made headlines after its female pitcher was the first female player to win a game in the World Series.
“Competitively, we did well in the World Series,” said Don Soucy, director of Little League’s Eastern Region, adding that some players ultimately advance to Major League Baseball in the future.
From the time they arrive on the first day until the last day of the tournament, Soucy said the Little League players all seem to experience a transformation after they leave. He said most of the players who are 12 years old realize during the course of the week that the days of their Little League experience are coming to an end, as they move on to more advanced levels of baseball and larger fields throughout their teenage years.
“It’s a transformation for them,” said Soucy, adding that he hopes the team spirit the players exhibit in the tournament apply it to the classroom when the new school year begins. “They grow up a little bit in the seven to nine days that they’re here.”
He encouraged folks from Bristol and other surrounding areas to watch the tournament,
Soucy said last year’s turnout for the tournament was “unbelievable,” as the event brought between 6,000 and 7,000 people.
“It was a scene,” said Soucy, adding that the event seems to grow every year.
Every year the Little League Baseball Eastern Region Tournament brings thousands of people from different states to Bristol. When the players arrive, they are connected with other recreational activities besides baseball, including a tour of ESPN. Soucy said the tournament also serves as an opportunity for baseball players and their families to learn more about what Bristol has to offer.
“They’re excited to be here,” said Soucy, adding that Giamatti has a great relationship with ESPN.
New this year is a city-wide promotional game created by the Bristol Chamber of Commerce called, “Round Bristol’s Bases.” Sponsored by the DoubleTree, the promotion is a flier that acts as a promotional game. The flier features four categories that correspond to each of the four bases: local flavors (first base); ethnic restaurants (second base); sweets (third base); and museums (home plate). Each category lists several corresponding local establishments, which offer a 15 percent discount if the flier is redeemed. Some offer special Little League themed menu items. To be eligible to win prizes, one must visit at least one participating location from each category listed on the flier. Prizes include Bristol All Heart toy baseballs, All Heart baseball style t-shirts, and a grand prize of a free stay at the DoubleTree by Hilton and a family four-pack of season passes to Lake Compounce.
“It’s a great idea and we’re happy about it,” said Soucy.
The promotional game launched on July 25, which coincided with the Little League Softball Eastern Regional Tournament. It will continue through Aug. 16.
Soucy said so far the promotional game has generated a lot of interest among the softball players’ families.
“It seems to have been going very well,” said Soucy. “We’re pretty excited about it.”
For more information about the 2015 Little League Baseball Eastern Regional Tournament, visit http://www.eteamz.com/llbeast/.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO