Massachusetts State Finals Take Place Next Week at Benevento Park
Published in the July 20, 2017 edition
NORTH READING – Playing in the Little League World Series is the dream of every youngster who puts on a baseball cap and glove, and winning the Massachusetts State Tournament is another step toward that dream coming true.
North Reading’s Benevento Park will host the 2017 State Finals on July 27-30, bringing together the top four teams in the Commonwealth. They’ll be vying for the right to advance to the New England Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn., to face the champions from Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The regional winner will then represent New England in the Little League World Series, scheduled for Aug. 17-27 in South Williamsport, Pa.
In preparation for the State Finals, North Reading Little League has performed a host of renovations to the Benevento Complex, including new lights, new dugouts, field improvements, a 20’ x 40’ pavilion, and an expanded snack shack. The goal is not only for NRLL to be able to put its best foot forward next week, but that the improvements will benefit the program and the town’s youth ball players for many years to come.
“We’re on target and ready to go,” said North Reading Little League president Eddie Madden, who keyed North Reading’s successful bid to host the Finals and has overseen the preparations for the past 18 months. “The new lights were completed last week and they alone make a huge difference, but they’re just one of many projects we’ve undertaken.”
The games begin next Thursday, July 27, at 3:30 p.m. when the champions from Section 1 and Section 2 meet. Opening ceremonies take place after that game, starting at 6:30 p.m., and the nightcap features Section 3 vs. Section 4 at 7:30 p.m. Pool play continues Friday, July 28 (4 p.m. and 7 p.m.), and Saturday, July 29 (12 noon and 3 p.m.), with the championship game on Sunday, July 30 (1 p.m.). Admission is free.
In addition to the games, the Red Sox Showcase will be on display at Benevento Park on July 29. The Showcase is a transportable Fenway Park featuring an interactive baseball program so that kids and families can experience baseball like the pros. The centerpiece is a 15-foot panel truck with interactive games and activities, allowing fans to test their baseball skills, all under the backdrop of a replica Green Monster scoreboard. The truck also includes a batting cage, a Red Sox virtual reality experience, pitching accuracy stations, “Steal 2nd Base” challenge, a Green Monster selfie station, and a Giant Jenga.
While the Showcase will be fun for the fans, the players will be focused on the games – and the dream of reaching the Little League World Series. A total of 16 teams – eight from the United States and eight International – will compete in this year’s World Series. In addition to New England, the U.S. teams will come from the following regions: Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and West. The International field comprises Asia-Pacific/Middle East, Australia, Canada, Caribbean, Europe/Africa, Japan, Latin America, and Mexico.
Overall, 10 Massachusetts teams have participated in the Little League World Series, most recently Peabody Western in 2009. Other Massachusetts teams to win the New England Regional include Jesse Burkett (Worcester) in 2002, Saugus American in 2003, and Walpole American in 2007.
At the World Series, attendance is normally well over 20,000, with crowds of 30,000 or more for the championship game. Millions more see the games on the ESPN Family of Networks and ABC. There is never any admission charge to attend a Little League Baseball World Series game and all team expenses – from food to travel to lodging – are covered.
Little League was founded in 1938 by Carl E. Stotz and play began the following season. In 1947, Stotz and the first local Little League Board of Directors brought together all Little League programs (there were just 17) and called it the National Little League Tournament. The champion was the Maynard Midget League of Williamsport, who defeated the Lock Haven All-Stars, 16-7.
Aided by the publicity from that first tournament, a rush of excitement
suddenly surrounded Little League, both across the country and even pouring over our national borders. By 1950, the first international Little Leagues had been established at either end of the Panama Canal and in Canada, prompting the National Tournament to be renamed the Little League Baseball World Series.
Before the 20th century was complete, the brainchild of Stotz had grown to include nearly 7,500 leagues in more than 100 countries with nearly three million children playing Little League Baseball or Little League Softball.
To serve the public interest, Little League has added several divisions of play through the years. Teenage baseball divisions (Intermediate 50/70, Junior, Senior, and Big League) and Challenger Division for physically and developmentally challenged children have extended the program’s outreach even further. There are now seven Little League World Series tournaments played every year.