Lou Olivieri doesn't think there could be a better scenario for his Swampscott Little League all-stars in the District 16 Williamsport tournament this season.
You can start with the fact that Swampscott has won the District title at the 11-year-old level for the last three years. Even with former District 15 powerhouse Peabody West switching to District 16 this season — a combined five all-star teams from Salem and Peabody have switched districts beginning this season — Swampscott has to be rated as a contender to win the title.
"Our phrase is 'Why not us?'" said Olivieri. "We welcome the challenge of what we consider some of the better competition in Massachusetts."
But what excites the Swampscott manager the most is the addition of Al Duratti to his coaching staff. Duratti was a co-founder of Swampscott Little League in 1954 and brings 58 years of experience to the job.
Olivieri wants his players to take full advantage of Duratti's considerable wisdom and experience.
"Al has literally been just strikes away from taking Swampscott to the (Little League) World Series," said Olivieri. "It makes me feel great that he accepted a coaching position. He brings so much to the table. He loves the game so much and he'll bring that sense of excitement and enthusiasm to the team. Our kids should really (benefit) under his guidance and tutelage."
Swampscott captured the District 16 championship last year but lost to Peabody West in the state sectionals. Now there's a possibility that these two teams could get in each other's way long before it ever reaches the sectional.
The new additions of Peabody National, Peabody American, Salem American and Salem National further intensifies the competition in District 16.
"It's been Swampscott and (Lynn) Wyoma (for District 16 supremacy) the last few years," said Olivieri. "We've formed quite a rivalry. Our kids are somewhat battle tested, but the uptick to 12-year-olds (after winning as 11s) when you add all these new teams makes it quite a challenge.
"What I'm preaching to my kids is that it's a pretty simple game: you've got to hit and pitch and field the ball. To say that they aren't aware of Peabody West (which made it to the World Series in Williamsport two years ago) would be foolish. Kids watch this stuff on TV and know the magnitude of what Peabody West has done in the past, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now we're just adopting a low profile."
As for the team's assets, Olivieri said, "I don't think we'll outslug anyone. We need to play solid defense and our pitchers need to keep the ball in the park. But we'll throw our gloves on the field against anyone. We respect everyone we're playing."
SWAMPSCOTT LL ALL-STAR WILLIAMSPORT ROSTER
Caleb Mazow, 1B
Louis Olivieri, 2B
Gavin Sullivan, OF/P/INF
Jack Morretti, SS
Dan Muller, C/P
Ryan Donnelly, CF
Steven Hopkins, OF
Kevin Lombard, OF
Owen Madigan-Fried, P/OF/C
A.J. Venuti, 3B
Michael Johnson, OF
Manager: Lou Olivieri
Coaches: Al Duratti and Jim Lombard
Swampscott's tourney opener: Tomorrow (10 a.m.) vs. Peabody National at Lynn Wyoma.