Thursday August 16, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The dream season for the Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year old All-Stars shows no sign of abating.

That's because the team is getting ready to play for a World Series championship next week.

"It's a dream come true. Every kid wants to go to a World Series, whether it's in New York or Arkansas, or even in Washington," Pittsfield second baseman Alex Carusotto said.

Carusotto and his Pittsfield teammates will be in Van Buren, Ark., to play for a Babe Ruth World Series title. The tournament actually begins on Friday, but Pittsfield won't play its first game until Sunday at 8:45 p.m. EDT, when the host team will be the competition.

The New England champions earned a fire truck ride on Wednesday morning prior to a City Hall ceremony. After the ceremony, the players probably won't go to sleep on Wednesday. They're due to take a school bus out of Pittsfield at 1 a.m. for the ride to Logan International Airport in Boston. From there, they'll board a 7 a.m. flight and eventually land in Fort Smith, Ark.

"This is crazy," Pittsfield player Joey Dewey said before practice on Monday. "Pittsfield hasn't gone here in a while. I know a lot more people now because they keep coming up to me and asking how we got there and stuff."

Pittsfield will be playing in the National Division pool with four other teams in the 10-team tournament. Both divisions have four-game pools set up. The top three finishers in each division will then play in a single-elimination event until two teams remain. Those two teams will play for the title on Saturday, Aug. 23.

"Everyone's been congratulating me and saying ‘Make me proud,' " said Carusotto. "I don't know if I'm nervous or excited or both. We've got to go and do what we have to do."

The Pittsfield squad has not played a game since last Wednesday, when it took two games from Waterford, Conn., to advance out of the losers' bracket and claim the New England championship.

Pittsfield manager Bob Shade, who will meet up with the players and coaches in Arkansas, said the team returned to the practice field on Friday, and has been going at it ever since. The team has not, however, been going at it hard.

"You don't like a long layover because it kind of drags out," said Shade. "You can't get games because there's nobody playing, which is a good thing. It's about the right amount of time.

"It gives us a chance to review our bunt defense, review our pickoffs with our pitchers and anything else we have to do. It's just the right amount of time to hit in the cage."

Shade said that when the team arrives in Arkansas, it would practice on one of the diamonds at the Field of Dreams Complex in Van Buren. It is, however, expected to be in the mid-to-upper 90s - and that could limit some practicing.

"According to our reports, it's going to be very hot down there," said Shade. "We're going to take it easy. We'll review when we're down there. We'll do the usual things - infield, outfield and we'll hit. If the weather is what we think it's going to be, we don't want to get them in a position where they're too tired to play the following day."

Shade said that right-hander Steve Witkowski, who tossed a pair of one-hit shutouts with 10 strikeouts in the New England tournament, will get the opening-night start. After that, the rotation will be adjusted based on health and whom the team plays.

Pitchers can throw seven innings in two games, not days. For example, if Witkowski goes five innings in the opener against Van Buren, he could come back and throw two innings of relief in the next game.

These are baseball players playing at the top of their game. But these are also 15 and 16-year old teenagers. Shade said getting them right back to work wasn't the easiest task.

"The first day of practice things were a little silly. I think they were puffing their chests out from what they had done," the manager said. "We've got them back to reality right now.

"We've tried to say to them that it's great to go down there. We want them to live the experience, but we're going down there to win a baseball tournament."

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.