This season’s Little League all-star tournaments in the Capital Region will have a different look.
Gone are district tournaments that led to the champions playing in the sectionals. Thanks to a combination of factors, the all-star tournaments for the 11-12-, 10-11- and 9-10-year-old divisions will begin with sectional play.
The Section 3 tournaments get underway today at various locations throughout the area.
“What we’ve done is combined six districts into one tournament, and then divided up into a North Division and a South Division,” said Tom Mahoney, assistant district administrator and tournament scheduler for Section 3. “Basically, what you’ve got is upward of 25 to 26 leagues now that are divvied up into two divisions, and within those divisions, we have pools.
“It was an opportunity to give kids more game-time opportunities and have some traveling involved in it. They’re certainly going to get a lot more games.”
There are 25 teams in the 11-12 all-star tournament, which is the division that plays for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. The North Division has 10 teams from Districts 11, 12 and 13. The South Division is made up of 15 teams from Districts 14, 15 and 16.
The 10-11 tournament has 16 teams divided into two divisions. The 9-10 tournament has 24 teams. There are 11 teams in the North Division, and 13 in the South. Both divisions have two pools each.
After pool play, the division winners in the 11-12 and 9-10 tournaments, and the top two teams in each division of the 10-11 tournament will play semifinal games, with the winners advancing to the best-of-three championship series starting July 16.
Mahoney believes seeing different teams will help with the excitement of the tournament.
“If you take one district, for example, if they have three or four teams,” Mahoney said. “If they had [a] single-elimination [format], had one game and been done, or perhaps they played pool play, and played two or three games and were done. They’re playing teams they’re familiar with. Under the new format, they’re getting more games because there’s more teams in each pool. If they’re successful in their pool, then there’s playoff games and a championship. Whoever wins goes right to the states.”
One of the factors that eliminated the district tournaments is that there are fewer Little League organizations.
For example, District 12 saw two mergers, plus one departure, during the winter. The Rotterdam and Carman Little Leagues became RC Little League, and Northside Little League merged with Schenectady Little League.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, which won the Section 3 and state tournaments last year to reach the Mid-Atlantic Region Tournament, left Little League to join the Cal Ripken League.
Another factor was the teams in District 13 in Albany.
“In the Albany district, you have three large leagues and five small leagues,” Mahoney said. “The smaller leagues could not compete against the bigger teams and, as a result, we sometimes had some difficulty getting those small leagues to participate in district-sponsored tournaments.”
The new format was approved by Little League Baseball for this year.
“If it’s successful, they’re likely to renew it in 2015,” Mahoney said. “We would like to expand it to include what I call the Triple-A division, and those smaller leagues will play against each other in a tournament format like you see now, except the winner would be declared the [section] champion, but they would not advance to the state level.”
RC Little League president Bob Carter said he will miss the district tournament.
“I would prefer to be able to play district-level all-stars,” Carter said. “It’s definitely a part of Little League history. We’re not getting that now. It appears that there’s just not enough teams signing up for sanctioned all-star tournaments anymore.”