BANGOR — Saturday night’s opening ceremonies of the Senior League World Series at Mansfield Stadium marked another stop on a long, exciting journey for the participating teams.
Players and coaches from all over the world paraded out onto the field for the first of many times to introduce themselves to the crowd and get acclimated with what will be their home and battleground for the next week.
While the ceremony was designed for teams to mingle and bond before the start of play Sunday, it also allowed players and coaches to reflect on the work it took for each it to make it to this point.
“It took a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck to be honest,” said Southwest coach Clint Sauls. “We lost a game in the state tournament, but we were able to fight back and beat that team twice to advance and help get us here.”
The Canadian team from Montreal faced much less difficulty in reaching its second straight World Series as it went 7-0 in its national tournament. The team was aided by the experience of nine returning players from last year’s World Series team.
For the Southeast team from Melbourne, Fla., it was just a matter of embracing the idea of pairing team unity with their talents for the team to be able to reach their full potential and get to Bangor.
“We have had good teams in years past, but we were never able to make it to the big one,” said Southeast player Cooper Christiano. “This year we had great chemistry and teamwork that allowed us to blow our competition away.”
Now that teams have found a way to get to this grand stage, they will now encounter an environment in Mansfield Stadium that some teams may not be accustomed to.
“We have faced big crowds before, but playing in a new environment so far away from home will be different,” said West coach Andre Simpson. “They should be fine as long as they learn to tune out the crowd and they should be able to at this age.”
U.S. East pitcher Tyler Desjardins believes it’s all about a player’s state of mind in overcoming the crowds.
“I’ll be pumped up, but I know I have to stay calm out there and avoid getting too over anxious,” said Desjardins. “I’ve played in state championship games before, but nothing compares to the World Series.”
Sauls wanted to show there was no difference between Mansfield and the team’s field in Houston with a movie re-enactment.
“I think we should to do the “Hoosiers” deal and lay down the tape measure and show that it’s still 90 feet to first,” quipped Sauls. “Obviously there will be some growing pains out of the gate, but once these guys get into a flow they will be fine.”
With plenty of work still to come, teams must now focus if they want to seize the opportunity.
“We did not come up here for a vacation,” said Sauls. “We want our kids to have a good time and take in the experience, but they can’t lose sight of the ultimate goal and why we are here.”
Southeast player Gabriel Rodriguez said he and his teammates are ready to come out strong and are prepared for anything that is thrown at them.
“We just need to show our opponents that we are the best team here and winning that first game will help do that,” said Rodriguez. “From there, we just need to play our game keep the wins coming.”
The tourney opens Sunday at noon when Maine District 3 champion Hampden will take on Canadian champ Notre-Dame-de-Grace of Montreal.
Three games will follow: U.S. Southeast vs. U.S. West at 2:30 p.m., U.S. Southwest vs. Asia-Pacific at 5:30 p.m., and U.S. East vs. U.S. Central at 8 p.m.
Pool-play games continue through Thursday with the semifinal games set for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, followed by the championship game at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Update: This story has been updated to reflect a schedule change.