Pittsfield Babe Ruth All-Stars meet the mayor outside City Hall on Monday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. – A ride through the city on a fire truck, a ceremony on the steps of City Hall with the mayor, TV cameras from the local news station out of Albany, N.Y.
It’s a lot for a group of 13-year-olds.
And it is all very much deserved.
But as Pittsfield Babe Ruth 13-and-under All-Stars Manager Ben Stohr was putting his team through its final full practice at Deming Park before leaving for this week’s Babe Ruth World Series in Virginia, he also was thinking about how to make sure his players do not get overwhelmed by the moment.
“Balance is definitely the key,” Stohr said about an hour before the team loaded up on a Pittsfield Fire Department ladder truck for the ride to Allen Street.
“Balance is huge in baseball all around. Not putting too much pressure on themselves when they get down there is something we’ve been focusing on. We just keep reminding them that we belong. It’s not like it was something that was handed to them.”
On the contrary, the Pittsfield nine grabbed its bid to Babe Ruth’s national championship tournament with both hands.
Stohr’s squad is 8-0 since the start of all-star season in July, including a 5-0 run that ended in a 6-0 shutout of Waterford, Conn., in the New England title game.
On Monday and Tuesday, the players and their families will make their way south to Glen Allen, Va., outside of Richmond, where they will join nine other teams vying for the World Series title.
Pittsfield is in a five-team pool with the champions of the Middle Atlantic Region, Southeast Region and Pacific Northwest Region plus the Virginia State Champs, who get an automatic berth along with the hosts from Glen Allen, who are in the other pool.
After an opening ceremony on Thursday, the teams will play a “warm-up” game. On Friday, the tournament begins in earnest with pool play; each team will play the other four teams in its pool from Friday to Tuesday. They then will be seeded for the bracket play that begins on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
The top three teams in each pool advance to the championship bracket, where they will play down to a World Series final on Friday afternoon, Aug. 19. The winners of each pool get a bye into the semi-finals, awaiting the winners of the games between the third- and second-place finishers.
The fourth- and fifth-place teams in each pool will play in the “Diamond Bracket,” a consolation bracket of sorts that will be filled out in the semi-finals with the losers of the quarter-finals in the championship bracket.
On each team’s “off day” (Saturday for Pittsfield), the hosts have arranged tickets for Kings Dominion amusement park, about 18 miles north of Glen Allen, Stohr said.
“And that first night, there’s a movie on the field with all the teams, so that will be a good opportunity for these guys to meet some of the kids that they’ll be playing against,” he said. “Hopefully, these guys are going to make some long-distance friends that they can keep in touch with for the rest of their baseball careers.”
On Monday, the players and family members enjoyed an opportunity to take center stage in the Shire City.
“I want to say how proud we are of our All-Stars on their way to Virginia,” Mayor Linda Tyer said. “I can tell you that everybody in PIttsfield is rooting for you to win this, bring it home. We’re going to be watching you play, however we can find you.
“For the families, we’re so grateful that you’ve let us enjoy this moment with your sons and the team.”
Pittsfield’s Babe Ruth program is no stranger to World Series competition in recent years. The 15U squad competed in Tennessee in 2015, the 14U squad competed in Westfield in 2016, and the 13Us played in Westfield in 2019.
Stohr said his players have the right mentality to continue their winning ways at the next level.
“Being so young and doing it in their first year in Babe Ruth, ignorance is bliss a little bit, I think,” he said. “They’re still playing baseball and looking forward to just still having more games left.
“Considering [the lost Little League season in 2020], it really is pretty special. … I think it’s a testament to all the work they put in in the off-season. There’s a lot of options around, locally, and off-season programs and facilities. So for them to be committed and still getting it done here in August, they started back in November, December. Some of them haven’t stopped.
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