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Play ball! | Kitsap Week
The teams arriving in Kitsap Aug. 13 from around the country for the 13-year-old Babe Ruth League World Series have come a long way.
Robert Faherty, Babe Ruth League vice president and commissioner, described the road to the world series as tough, but fair. After battling through the regular season, state and regional tournaments, teams have earned their spots in the series.
Teams competing in a large tournament have noticeably changed. And although each may have had their own struggles on the road to the world series, the team’s preparing to compete are ready to play with the best.
“They’re battle tested,” Faherty said.
Nine teams from around the country and one local host team will play in the 13-year-old Babe Ruth League World Series. The series begins Aug. 15 at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds, 1195 NW Fairgrounds Road, Bremerton. Games will be played at Gene Lobe Field. Gene Lobe Field is home to the summer collegiate baseball team the Kitsap BlueJackets.
An opening ceremony for the series is 6 p.m. opening day.
Four games are scheduled for opening day: 9 a.m. (Westfield, Mass. versus Waite Park, Minn.), noon (Monroe Township, N.J. versus Greenville N.C.), 3 p.m. (Burlington, Wash. versus Schererville, Ind.), and 7:30 p.m. (Kitsap versus Tri-Valley, Calif.).
Also in the series are teams from Bryant, Ark. and Meridian, Idaho.
Burlington is the Washington state champion team.
Games Aug. 15-19 are pool play.
Beginning Aug. 20, the series transitions into a single elimination bracket for teams finishing pool play in first through third place in both the American and National divisions.
The championship game is scheduled for 6 p.m., Aug. 22, where one team will be named World Series Champion.
Tickets are $5 per person for a single day or $60 for a family pass (two adults and up to three children), which is good for the entire tournament.
Events prior to the series begin Aug. 14 with a coaches breakfast at 8 a.m., a coaches hitting clinic at 10 a.m. and a parade for the public in downtown Poulsbo at 5 p.m.
A banquet is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tickets are no longer available for purchase.
Though the series will be held at the fairgrounds, Poulsbo was announced as the official host town April 14, 2011.
Faherty admits the whole experience can be overwhelming. Traveling to a new location to play baseball in front of a large crowd may be unknown to the 13-year-olds. The only familiar thing to the players for certain is when they step onto the baseball diamond to play.
During the tournament, Faherty said the players might not be able to put their experience into context. But it will be an experience that will stick with both players and coaches throughout their lives, he said.
In all, the Babe Ruth League hosts nine world series in August: Cal Ripken 10-year-old, Bentonville, Ark.; Cal Ripken Major/60, Winchester, Mass.; Cal Ripken Major/70, Aberdeen, Md.; Babe Ruth 13-year-old, Kitsap; Babe Ruth 14-year-old, Murray, Utah; Babe Ruth 13-15, Van Buran, Ark.; Babe Ruth 16-18, Welmar, Texas; Softball 12U, Alachua, Fla.; Softball 16U, Wilson County, N.C.
Mike Jones, the last coach to take a North Kitsap Babe Ruth team to a world series, said it takes a lot of hard work to make it. It also takes a little luck.
In 2004, Jones took a 14-year-old team to the World Series in Wilson County, N.C. Two years later in 2006, he took a 16-year-old team to the series in Monticello, Ark. Both teams had the same nucleus of players.
Going to a World Series is something players remember forever, he said. “It’s just an amazing experience.”
North Kitsap Babe Ruth has sent four teams to a World Series: 1988, 2001, 2004 and 2006.
Jones coached alongside Brent Stenman — the manager in 2004 and 2006 and co-president of the 2012 13-year-old Babe Ruth World Series. The majority of the players they coached had not only played baseball together since the age of 10, they were also from the same school. When a coach from Louisiana asked how many schools they had drawn from and heard “one,” “He said ‘no way,’” Jones said.
The Louisiana coach pulled from five schools.
Jones said the way his teams played together was something that made him proud. The players realized their potential at the age of 12, when they defeated Yakima, a top team in the league.
When it comes time to play in a World Series, the attitude doesn’t change much, Jones said. It’s still traditional Babe Ruth baseball.
Single elimination, however, is tough.
The 16-year-old team went through the tournament pool play undefeated. But when it came time for single-elimination, the team’s winning-streak came to an end. The elimination doesn’t bother Jones.
“Being [in the World Series] is quite an accomplishment,” Jones said. “The pride is so amazing. Just seeing those kids playing is great.”
Jones is still coaching Babe Ruth baseball. He will also be volunteering during the 13-year-old Babe Ruth League World Series at the Kitsap Fairgrounds.
The World Series in Kitsap is Aug. 15-22. It is one of seven World Series tournaments for the Babe Ruth League (three Cal Ripken tournaments and four Babe Ruth tournaments). Two Babe Ruth Softball World Series are also being held.
“For Russ [Barker] and Brent [Stenman] to pull this off is just amazing,” Jones said of bringing a World Series to Kitsap. “It’s going to be right here in our backyard.”
It’s all about the baseball.
“I carry so much pride for those [World Series players] that are playing and have played,” Jones said.