BANGOR — The defending Senior League World Series champions from San Nicolas, Aruba, have had one of the busiest schedules to date of any of the 10 entries in this year’s field.
After playing on each of the first three nights of the tournament at Mansfield Stadium, the Latin American champions became the first team to complete pool play with their 6-2 victory over Palm Bay, Fla., early Wednesday afternoon.
“We had three night games and then we played early today so we didn’t have a lot of time to rest,” said Aruba catcher Chadwick Tromp. “We got to the hotel about 11:30 last night and went to sleep about 1 o’clock, then we had to get up at 8 to play. So having the day off will be good for us to relax and get back in shape for the semifinals.”
The Aruba team, 3-1 in Pool B play, is not assured a berth in the semifinals, as it must await the outcome of Thursday’s game between 2-1 Midland, Mich., and 3-0 Hilo, Hawaii.
A Midland win would produce a three-way tie in the pool, with the two teams advancing to Friday’s semifinals subsequently determined by tiebreakers.
Should Hawaii defeat Midland, it would be the pool champion and Aruba would be the runner-up, and those teams would move on to Friday’s play.
In the interim, the Aruba contingent is looking forward to Thursday’s respite.
“We had the three night games and we slept late after those games, then we had an early game today,” said Aruba manager Milton Croes. “I felt the team was a little tired today, so this off day will be a good rest for us.”
It won’t be all about rest for the Aruba contingent Thursday, as for the third straight year they will be the guests of honor at an afternoon barbecue hosted by Albert and Barbara Harmon of Hancock.
The Harmons honeymooned in the Caribbean nation 11 years ago and have been regular visitors to the island ever since.
“We’ve probably gone to Aruba 24 or 25 times,” said Harmon. “Three years ago I read in the Bangor Daily News that Aruba had won the Latin American championship and was coming to Bangor, so I called a friend there and told them I wanted to have a picnic for the team and that’s how it started.”
With Aruba now making its third straight appearance in the SLWS, the picnic has become an annual event and Harmon expects up to 100 players, coaches, family members and fans of the team to attend this year.
“Since we’ve been doing this I’ve made lifelong friends with so many people there,” said Harmon.
As for the players on the Aruba team, they’re looking forward to visiting the Harmons again.
“It was awesome last year,” said Tromp, one of five players back from the 2010 SLWS championship team. “I’m looking forward to it again this year. After four games back to back, the chance to relax, to chill and to prepare for the semifinals is great. We love it.”
Aruba’s veteran presence
Tromp, Ray Patrick Didder, Marvin Brown, Marc Danies and Miklos Petronia have a rare opportunity — to win back-to-back Senior League World Series championships.
No team has won two straight SLWS titles since Chinese Taipei won five in a row from 1988 through 1992.
And while this year’s team will have to wait until Thursday’s final day of pool play to learn if it will advance to the semifinals for the third straight year, previous tournament experience already has proven beneficial for the most veteran players among the reigning championship squad.
“I think that last year we got to see the field, and we knew it was big so we learned we have to hit the ball in the gaps,” said Tromp. “Here they have a lot of contact hitters, so you don’t see many strikeouts and I told the rest of the team that’s an advantage for us.
“For the five that came back this year, we all knew the field, we know it gets cold and hot here, and we know that you’ve got to be aggressive all the time so we told all the other guys that.”
Sharing that knowledge with the newcomers on the team was an important part of the team’s preparation for its return to Bangor.
“The five who came both last year and this year, our job is to guide the younger ones,” said Brown, “We have to do the job and they will follow. It’s a good experience to be able to come back here.”
Semifinal times pushed up
Game times for Friday’s Senior League World Series semifinals have been moved up in anticipation of inclement weather later in the day, according to tournament director Mike Brooker.
The games originally were scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., but now are set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. due to current forecasts calling for thunderstorms in the Bangor area after 2 p.m. Friday.
Saturday’s SLWS championship game remains scheduled for 2 p.m.