By Jean DePlacido
---- — For many years, a group of Beverly Little League coaches have been thinking about starting a new baseball tournament at Harry Ball Field.
That dream will become a reality when the Panther Little League Invitational begins Thursday, August 15 with a field of eight teams. Beverly, Peabody, Danvers, Middleton, Manchester-Essex, Gloucester, Hamilton-Wenham and Lynn will all compete in the double-elimination tournament to determine the inaugural champion.
Tournament director Stephen Marsella is excited to see the it finally come together.
“We’ve wanted to do this tournament for a long time,” said Marsella, who will coach the Beverly team. “I started thinking about it 20 years ago because we’ve got the perfect place at Harry Ball with two fields, lights, bathrooms, plenty of parking and a concession stand.
‘“We’ll follow Little League rules and play six innings, but have to modify the pitching a bit because of all the games we’ll have in a short time. Innings pitched will be used instead of a pitch count, and we’ll require rest in between games.”
Marsella said there will be four games played (2 each at 5:30 and 7:30 pm..) on opening night at Harry Ball as well as the following night, Aug. 16. In all, 14 games will be played to determine a champion (15 if an ‘if necessary’ game comes into play during the championship round). The tournament continues on Saturday the 17th with two games at noon, and the two winners of those contests meeting again at 5 p.m.
The winner’s bracket final is slated for Sunday, Aug. 18, with the loser’s bracket being played the next evening. The tournament title game is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 20 (with the ‘if necessary’ game on Wednesday).
“We have a very tight schedule to get all the games in, so we’re hoping the weather cooperates,” said Marsella.
“This is not a charity event, so we don’t expect to make money after we pay the umpires, supply game balls and buy trophies. There will be a big team trophy for the winning team along with individual trophies for each player on the winning and runner-up teams, and a tournament MVP trophy.”
Being a first-year tourney, Marsella said things are naturally still being fine-tuned. He said he’s glad to have Sarkis Sarkisian helping out — “he has a lot of connections and reacehd out to some cities and towns to help us fill out the field of teams” — and feels with declining numbers in many cities and towns that it’s important to promote youth baseball any way he can.
“Baseball is a great sport, and we felt this would be a nice way to give a lot of younger kids the opportunity to play in a fun tournament,” said Marsella. “We want to make this our own; we’re not trying to compete or take away from the Gallant Tournament (the annual youth baseball tournament held in Salem during the same time frame).
“We’ve got a great place in Harry Ball and have hosted (Massachusetts Little League) sectionals and states there, so we’re ready to take this on. I’m looking forward to getting it going. It’s a lot of work, but it’s definitely worth it. “