It's been quite a journey for the Pittsfield Babe Ruth 15-year old All-Stars to get to the World Series in Van Buren, Ark. That journey to play the first game in the tournament took a little longer.
Rain in Western Arkansas forced organizers of the tournament to push the schedule back. As of Sunday evening, the game between Pittsfield and Van Buren was behind schedule and did not begin until approximately 11:20 p.m. EDT.
In the words of Pittsfield manager Bob Shade, the Pittsfield team is ready to go.
"It's like a race horse chomping at the bit," Shade said in a phone interview Sunday before his team's game. "Everybody else has played. The kids are ready to play. They're practiced out now."
Pittsfield plays in the National bracket with the host team, Niskayuna, N.Y., Kelso, Wash., and Lumber River, N.C. Through Sunday's originally scheduled 3:15 p.m. (EDT) game, Niskayuna leads the pool with a 2-0 record. Kelso and Van Buren are 1-1 while Lumber River has dropped both of its games.
Pittsfield's second game in the National Division pool will be today at 3:15 (EDT) against the Middle Atlantic champions from the Capital District.
The Pittsfield manager called the level of play in Van Buren good, but admitted he hasn't seen a dominant team.
"We haven't seen anything we think we can't handle," said Shade, who along with coaches Mike Winston and Buddy Pellerin, has been scouting the opposition. "I think we can stay with these teams. I think we're very competitive with every team we've seen."
Shade said that the players were pretty beat when they arrived in Van Buren. That's because everything didn't go according to plans on their trip to Arkansas.
Getting out of Logan Airport in Boston wasn't much of a problem, but Shade said the team's fight ran into weather issues and was unable to land in Chicago. Instead, the plane went back to Detroit to refuel and wait out the weather before flying into O'Hare Airport in the Windy City.
They missed their connecting flight to Fort Smith, Ark., and instead flew into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Fayetteville, where the University of Arkansas is located. That's about 73 miles north of Van Buren. But the players did get to their host families, maybe a little worse for wear.
The Pittsfield team practiced once on Friday and did a double practice on Saturday -- in the morning and again at night.
"Practice Friday wasn't that good. They were tired," said Shade. "[On Saturday] our morning practice was good. Our night practice was better."
Shade and his staff got some good news before leaving Pittsfield. Joey Dewey, who pitches and plays third base, was cleared to pitch.
That means Steve Witkowski got the ball in Sunday's opener and Dewey will take the mound today against Niskayuna.
The Pittsfield players have bonded with their rivals from Washington state, and even had a Kelso player join them for pre-practice stretching exercises.
"I said ‘Who are you?' " Shade said. "He said ‘I'm from Kelso, Coach. I'm your new player.' "
Shade said the crowds have been very good and the players have really taken to their host families.
"The revelation so far," Shade said, "is that the kids love catfish and sausage gravy on biscuits."