The Gallant Tournament is back home in Salem at O’Grady Field this year after having to go on the road the last two years because of the city flood relief project that tore up Forest River Park.
The tournament is named in memory of Ray Gallant, who passed away after a battle with cancer. He was a Little League coach in the city and member of the Little league’s board of directors.
In 2018 Danvers won the 35th Gallant crown and this year once again Dave Gotts will manage the Falcons as they look to repeat as champions. Salem, Peabody, Beverly, Lynn, Marblehead, and Swampscott are also entered.
“We had hoped to have eight teams, and Saugus showed interest but didn’t commit,” said Sean O’Keefe, who is co-director with Dylan Payne and is also managing the Salem team.
“I’ve been running this tourney over 25 years now since the beginning (1992), but this will be my last. It’s a lot of work getting it all together with the tee shirts, ad book, and all the trophies. My daughter is getting married next August 9, and family comes first.”
Swampscott is putting a team in the Gallant for the first time in a long time. The North Shore end of summer tradition is a stepping stone from Little League to Babe Ruth, and games will be seven innings. There is also no pitch count and it is allowed to go all seven innings.
Having one team from each city or town is another popular feature, since during Little League season players in Danvers, Peabody, and Lynn have more than one league.
Action begins with one game on Thursday night (Lynn against Danvers), two on Friday, and four both Saturday and Sunday. The new champ will be crowned next week barring rain outs like those a year ago that caused havoc and forced some games to be moved to Wyoma in Lynn.
“It’s great to be back on our home field,” said O’Keefe. “It makes life a lot easier, but I have to thank Beverly for helping us out the last two years so we could keep it going until O’Grady was ready. Unfortunately, we had so much rain last August go to Lynn to finish it. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t happen again.”
Salem’s first game is at 7:30 on Friday night against Peabody. Both teams did well in the Williamsport Little League Tournament so it should be a good battle. Peabody won District 16 and went on to the sectionals.
“Some of the kids, who would normally be on our Salem team are away on vacation,” said O’Keefe. “We do have three very good pitchers which will help.”
Peabody is managed by Steve Cabral, who is assisted by coaches Mike Santos, Al Annese, and Mike Hartnett.
“We have Scott Cabral, Mason Clickstein, Zach Hartnett, Jace Jean Pierre, Tyler Santos, James Smith, Matt Smith, and Jariel Tolentino from the Peabody team. Dylan Annese, Alex Jackson, Joseph Keka, Chris Martinello, and Joseph Sinibaldi are from Peabody West,” said Cabral.
“We have a solid team, and I think a strong lineup with good pitching. Hopefully our defense will be good, too.”