The Senior League World Series may not be in Bangor any longer, but one team will get to it after playing there.
Maine District 3 Little League, which hosted the Little League Baseball world championship tournament for 15- and 16-year-olds from 2002 through 2016 before the event was moved to Easley, South Carolina, will host the 10-team Senior League East Region tournament at Mansfield Stadium for the first time beginning Thursday, July 18.
The winner of that double-elimination event, which continues through July 24, earns an automatic berth in the SLWS from July 27 through Aug. 3.
The end of the East regional’s 28-year stay in New Jersey stemmed from organizational issues, while the SLWS move from Bangor was made for logistical and financial reasons involving transportation and housing. The South Carolina site is located near several major Southeast airports as well as Clemson University, which provided housing for the teams.
“I believe many people in Little League had concerns regarding moving the World Series from Bangor knowing the job we did and the facility that we have,” Maine District 3 administrator Mike Brooker said. “When the decision was made that the East Regional was going to be leaving West Deptford, the first thought in many East Region people’s mind was Bangor knowing the facility and staff and volunteers we have here.
“We were pleased to know that Little League still knew we were capable of doing it and wanted to do these types of things and that they would reach out to us.”
State champions from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland will be joined by the Maine District 3 champion in the East Region field.
The Maine District 3 champion is expected to be crowned Saturday, with Old Town, Bronco (Hampden-Hermon area), Holbrook (Brewer-Holden area) and Bangor vying for that berth.
The District 3 champion will play its first East Regional game at 1 p.m. Friday, July 19, against Mount Monadnock Little League of Jaffrey, New Hampshire.
Three District 3 champions advanced deep into the SLWS tournament during its 15-year Queen City stay. Bangor reached the 2010 championship game and teams from Bangor (2014) and Hampden-Hermon (2016) advanced to the semifinals.
“This stadium was built to provide a premier location for local kids to play, and then once we started getting these tournaments it’s provided local kids opportunities to play against competition that otherwise they might not have that chance,” Brooker said.
“By having the regional right here, they’re able to play at a high level, and who knows what might happen.”
The East Region champion has been one of the more consistent entries in the Senior League World Series field since the turn of the century. It advanced to the semifinals seven times during the tournament’s stay in Bangor. Two of those East teams, Freehold Township, New Jersey, in 2004 and Upper Deerfield Township, New Jersey, in 2008, were crowned Senior League World Series champions.
“When these teams get here, they’ve already won their districts and in some cases sectionals and then state championships, so they are tested teams who have been successful,” Brooker said.
The tournament will have a similar feel to the Senior League World Series held in Bangor, though Little League Baseball is less directly involved, particularly financially. Teams that qualify for the regional have to pay for their own travel and lodging and the local organizers also have some additional costs.
“What we do have the cost of now is for the umpires who are coming that Little League previously paid for. We now have to pay for that, and that’s a significant cost,” Brooker said. “We’re still going to feed the teams using the Penobscot Job Corps at the stadium so we still have those costs, too, and the little things just add up.”
Brooker is buoyed by the continuing volunteer support, both in organizing the event and stadium maintenance.
“Our volunteer group was always enthusiastic and remains so,” he said. “The stadium staff is very happy to be able to showcase the stadium. They’ve been working very hard over here the last couple of weeks.”
Brooker, who said the stadium looks good, hopes the tournament may attract some larger traveling parties to Bangor than many of the international teams that played in the SLWS.
“We’re hopeful that all of these states that are within a day’s drive of here will bring some additional fans,” he said, “but we still need the local support, too, because we don’t have as much financial backing from Little League. We really need the gate.”