By Jim McGrath | firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandria’s Intermediate Little League All-Star baseball team rambled through a long series of victories at the district and state levels be- fore bowing out of the Virginia tournament last Saturday, with a 3-2 season ending loss to Richmond in the semifinals.
It was the first state appearance for the intermediate team in four years. The Alexandria squad won the Virginia crown in2017.
The district tournament, also called the 50/70 to note the distances from home plate
to the pitcher’s mound and bases, saw an auspicious start for Alexandria as they cruised to 19-4 and 12-1 wins over Vienna and Arlington American. Their next contest was a nail biter, an 8-7 win over Arlington National. A 12-3 deci- sion over McLean followed, as did another squeaker win of 9-8 over Mason District. Their 5-0 record in the pool pitted them against the second-place team, Arlington National (4-1) in the final, and for the second time, a single run separated the two teams, but Alexandria prevailed 7-6.
After winning their state opener, the team brought hot bats into the Richmond game after out-slugging West Springfield 13-3 in the quarterfinals for their ninth straight win – six to capture the District 4 title and the first three within the state bracket.
Still, for the Port City’s Boys of Summer, their nine-game postseason winning streak gave manager Andy Reid and his team a reason to be proud.
There was another built-in advantage for the team, according to Alexandria Little League president Sherry Reilly.
“For the first time our home district hosted the intermediate tournament, so the games were all taking place right in Arlington,” Reilly said. More specifically, the fields at Gunston Park in Shirlington were used for state play, which also allowed local businesses an opportunity to offer first hand support to the local representatives.
Simply being chosen for the All-Star team, as a player or coach, is an arduous process. The starting point is a commit- tee which consists of Reilly and all Alexandria Little League board members. According to the organization website (alexandrialittleleague.org), there are currently 12 potential active voters.
Before being considered for any of the All-Star teams (there are also teams for the 8-10, 9-11, and Major age groups), the Board wants to make sure that each participant under- stands the commitment of time and the expectations involved. Players are asked to be available to practice five days a week, possibly twice a day, for the two weeks leading up to the district tournament. The game commitment lasts from June 16 through July 13, and possibly longer if the team advances past the State tournament, which could extend the season into August if a team reaches the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
Reid spoke of his team’s preparation.
“We had practice five days a week for three hours a day for about three weeks. When it rained, we went to an indoor facility and had batting practice. There were no days off. We had a team dinner graciously hosted by one of the awesome families to bond off the field. Next, we had two scrimmages to get the boys tuned up for the start of the district tournament. We won both handily.”
There is also the potential cost of playing for the All- Stars. While participation is voluntary, players understand that there may be expenses similar to the ones incurred by athletes on traveling teams, if the team leaves Northern Virginia. Several local sponsors were instrumental in helping to defray the team’s costs and keep the players well fed. Reilly said, “Little league baseball is all about community, and wow did we see our community come together to support this special team as they battled for the state title.”
Other expectations include awareness that play rules may be different, and each play- er’s family is “required to agree to respect and accept all coaching decisions concern- ing line-ups and playing time without complaint.”
Finally, there is the volunteer rule. Each all-star family is responsible for volunteering once for one of the following jobs at another Alexandria Little League All-Star game hosted at Little Simpson Park. The positions include groundskeeping, counting pitches, announcing, score- keeping, operating the score- board and working for shifts in the concession stand.
Once the rules are accepted, the pool of players and man- agers is developed. First, the committee puts out a call for managers to all eligible man- agers and coaches of record. They conduct interviews of prospective team leaders and pass along their recommendations to the League Board.
Among the criteria considered are:
• Regular season performance;
• Ability to communicate with players and parents;
• Ability to develop players at a specific age group;
• Knowledge of baseball and Little League rules;
• Cooperation with Alexandria Little League and its Board of Directors.
The process for selecting the players is no less grueling. It starts with a vote of all man- agers in each division. Each manager votes for seven players who are not on his/her team and recommends his/her own players. It is from this list that the All-Star team manager selects the team, but not without having the opportunity to con- duct his/her own scouting.
The criteria considered for addition to an All-Star team include:
• Overall ability, in the cur- rent and past seasons;
• Regular season performance;
• Demonstration of a special skill that will assist the performance of the All-Star team in All-Star competition;
• Availability for All-Star competition
Reid, and assistant coaches Tom Sawyer and David Zand culled through the list of potential players carefully.
“We collectively selected 12 players that fit the bill for what it means to be an all-star for ALL. Excellent sportsman- ship, respect for the game, and its officials, the ability to play ball at a high level, and their commitment to be a part of the team throughout the duration of the tournament. This isn’t easy with everybody’s summer schedule,” Reid said.
Among other ALL teams, the juniors’ All-Star team is going to be competing in the state tournament in Purcellville beginning on Thursday. There are no other teams at that age level in District 4, so the Alexandria team goes straight to states at that level.
• 8-10-year-old All-Star team (3-2 in District 4)
• 9-11-year-old All-Star team (2-3 in District 4)
• Majors (12-year-olds) team (0-4 in District 4)