By HAROLD RIVERA
The Massachusetts District 16 12-year-olds All-Star tournament is set to begin next weekend when Winthrop battles against Lynnfield at Lynn Shore in the first game on the schedule. From there, a total of 26 games will be played throughout the next three weeks.
District 16 Administrator Joe Baglieri, in his seventh year in the role, said the players and coaches are ready to get the ball rolling on the tournament and excited for its upcoming start.
“We start next week so by now 99 percent of the teams have been announced,” Baglieri said. “So we’re just eager to get going and get started.”
No major changes have been made to this year’s tournament. The double-elimination format remains intact and the tournament will abide by its traditional regulations, per usual.
“Little league’s always tweaking rules a little bit but nothing major,” Baglieri said. “We’re still District 16 and we still do a double-elimination tournament. It’s pretty much the same old, same old.”
Field assignments have already been made, checking one major item off Baglieri’s list. Once the tournament reaches its back end, Baglieri will be tasked with finding neutral locations for the final games.
“Fields have already been assigned for the first two rounds,” Baglieri said. “We’ve updated everything on our website. When we get to the back end of the tournament, I personally assign the fields based on who’s in. At that point, all games are on neutral fields. That’s the fair way to do it.”
Once the tournament gets rolling, fans can expect competitive games with significant meaning. At stake is a trip to states and, from there, a potential ticket to the 2017 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“They’re always are trying to pick the best 12-year-olds they have,” Baglieri said. “Once you clear the sectional round, you get to states. From there, then it’s regionals and then possibly Williamsport.”
The most recent local team to punch its ticket to the Little League World Series in Williamsport was Peabody West Little League in 2009. At the time, Peabody West was a member of District 15, but has since joined District 16.
“It’s not an easy road getting out of District 16, never mind the rest of the way,” Baglieri said. “ In District 16 you need to win five games in a row but that’s not as easy said as it’s done. Last year, Peabody won four in a row and couldn’t get in. It’s not an easy road.”
The most recent group to take a trip to Williamsport through District 16 was Saugus in 2001.
“Because it’s double elimination, the tougher teams face each other later on,” Baglieri said. “Even though one team might win, it’s tough to stay in it. In the back end of the tournament, you get very good teams facing very good teams.”
The opportunity to send a team from District 16 to Williamsport, Baglieri said, would be one he wouldn’t forget anytime soon.
“It would be outstanding,” Baglieri said. “It would be sweet to do that. A lot of District Administrators stick around for 30, 40 years and don’t get to see that opportunity. I’d love to have a team go that far.”
The tournament begins Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.) when Winthrop battles Lynnfield at Lynn Shore. Also Sunday, East Lynn visits Nahant (5 p.m.). On Monday, Salem battles Wyoma at Peabody West (5:45), and Swampscott hosts Lynn Shore (5:45). On Tuesday, Peabody visits Saugus (5:45) and Pine Hill hosts Peabody West (5:45).