GLENDALE — Having spent the past four months practicing and competing in regular season games, the attention of dozens of area Little League baseball and softball players has focused on the seven upcoming District 16 Tri-Cities Tournament of Champions.
Plenty will be at stake for those scheduled to compete, but Dave Ritchie said the teams should be battle tested in the various tournaments.
"I always believe that the All-Stars tournaments are the best because you are getting the best of the best, but they only have a couple of weeks to get ready and they are not used to each playing with other," said Ritchie, the district's volunteer administrator. "The big difference with this tournament is that these teams have been together and practiced since February.
"They've been together all this time and they have been friends the whole year."
Ritchie said he will be intrigued by what teams are in position to raise the bar throughout the double-elimination tournaments.
"In Junior Baseball, you will get some high school players that are still age-eligible and they can make a big impact on your team," Ritchie said. "I think it's up in the air who can win that one.
"In the Major Baseball, it's the only division where the teams haven't played each other and they'll play on fields that they didn't play on during the regular season. With all of the softballs, the teams have played each other. There's always the possibility of upsets happening. They have experience playing in tournaments and that will help them in this tournament and going into All-Stars."
Two baseball tournaments will kick things off Saturday.
The Minor Baseball will feature opening-round games between Jewel City Mauerhan and the Burbank Yankees at 1:30 p.m. at Babe Herman Field, the Burbank Dodgers against the Vaquero Giants at 1:30 at Scholl Canyon Ball Fields, Jewel City Kiwanis against Jewel City at 4 at Babe Herman and Foothill Crescenta Valley Insurance against the Vaquero Dodgers at 4 p.m. at Scholl Canyon.
Foothill Arroyo, Tujunga Mets, Foothill Bistagne, Burbank Braves, Foothill Lighthouse, Tujunga Dodgers, Burbank Angels and Jewel City Elks will also participate in the tournament.
In the Major Baseball Division, Foothill Two Guys will meet Crescenta Valley at 1 p.m. at Pacific Park, followed by Jewel City/Jewish War Veterans against the Burbank Angels with the Tujunga Red Sox, Vaquero Auto Body, Jewel City Lions, Foothill Tommy's, Crescenta Valley Auto Body, Tujunga Phillies, Vaquero Cougars and Burbank Cubs waiting in the wings.
Jewel City Lions Manager Holly Keenan said the division should be formidable.
"There are a lot of good teams and a lot of them have gotten better as the season has progressed," Keenan said. "You start to see the pitching develop and that can make a huge difference."
The Major Softball Division tournament will kick off Monday with the Vaquero Diamonds facing the Jewel City Kutters at 5 p.m. at Scholl, followed by the Red Hots against the Tujunga Warriors at 7:30 at the same site. Foothill Giuseppe's and Crescenta Valley Sanfillippo will also be a part of the tournament having drawn the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, and playing in second-round games Wednesday at Scholl.
The Minor Softball Tournament will also start Tuesday with five contests. The Foothill Killer Bees will take on Crescenta Valley Arnols at 5:15 p.m. at Babe Herman Field, followed by Vaquero Royalty against Crescenta Valley JDL at 7:30 at the same location. Other first-round games will pit Crescenta Valley Alsamman against the Tujunga Bat Rays at 7:30 p.m. at Tujunga Little League Fields, Crescenta Valley-2 against the Burbank Diamonds at 5:15 at Scholl and Crescenta Valley Andy's against Foothill Two Guys at 7:30 at Scholl. Crescenta Valley-1, Tujunga Hot Shots and the Burbank Heart Breakers will also take part in the tournament.
The Junior Baseball and Junior Softball Division tournaments will begin June 18.
In the Junior Baseball bracket, the Tujunga Twins will meet the Jewel City Bears at 9:30 a.m. at Tujunga Little League Fields, followed by the Crescenta Valley Augusta against the Crescenta Valley Kelly & Small at noon and Crescenta Valley DCG against the Burbank Orioles at 2:30 p.m. Also slated to be a part of the tournament are the Burbank Indians, Crescenta Valley Kitchen, Foothill, Burbank Bulldogs and Jewel City West Coast.
Foothill Manager Sean Rodriguez said traditionally the most balanced teams in the division generate the most success.
"It always comes down to pitching and the best teams have more than one dominating pitcher," Rodriguez said. "The top teams also have more depth at the bottom of the lineup in that they can all hit from 1-9."
The Junior Softball Division will start with the Burbank Diamonds meeting the Jewel City Fire Belles at 9:30 a.m. at Montrose Park, followed by Crescenta Valley Muir-Chase against Crescenta Valley Kiwanis at noon at the same site. Top-seeded Burbank Fusion earned a first-round bye.