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Fri, Feb. 21

Little League All-Star Tournaments make way to Cottonwood

After a week off in between tournaments, Little League roars back into action this weekend.

The June 7-9 District 10 Tournament of Champions gives way this weekend to the start of All-Star Tournaments, which are teams that feature the standout players from each city's league teams. Like the Tournament of Champions, the All-Stars will tangle at Riverfront Park in Cottonwood this Saturday and Sunday.

The 10-11 and 9-10 age baseball tournaments will compete, in what will be the end of the summer road for those age divisions. The 11-12 and 9-10 all-star softball teams, too, play this weekend.

Next weekend, brackets shift to the Junior All-Stars (ages 13-14) in Dewey-Humboldt.

The big one is after that, though.

The 11-12-year-old baseball All-Star Tournament opens July 5 in Chino Valley. That's the one where the final destination could be the historic tournament in Williamsport, Pa., home of the annual Little League World Series.

"That's the epitome of Little League. That's what Little League was founded on," said Arizona Assistant District Administrator Mike Kincaid who is not only based in Prescott, but also umpired 12 games at the World Series in Williamsport in 2010.

"When Carl Stotz founded Little League (in 1939) he timed how fast it took a Major Leaguer to run from home to first on a 90-foot field, and if it was 3.2 seconds or whatever, then he timed how far a 12-year-old kid could run in 3.2 seconds and he determined that 60 feet was equal to the 90 feet for the bigs.

"And he did the same thing with the pitching. He timed a pitch from 60-feet, 6-inches to home plate, and then had 12-year-old kids throw and found out the distance that it would take them to throw that same pitch the same amount of time was 46 feet."

Demand for more baseball over the years led to the expansion of other age divisions, including 9-10 year olds and 10-11's, and even older brackets, like the Junior division (13-14). Softball was added for girls, too.

The Little League organization just this year added a 12-13 Intermediate baseball division, which expands the playing field dimensions to 70-foot base paths and 50-foot pitching mounds. The first World Series in that division takes place in Livermore, Calif., starting July 30.

The Prescott area doesn't offer that division, though. The logistics of retrofitting current fields around town already in use on a nightly basis throughout the summer for adult rec league softball teams poses challenges.

But the local 11-12 Little League division is cranking up for its most important part of the season.

The leagues hosted their season opening weekends way back in the first week of April. All the developmental games and practices since have led to next month's All-Star Tournaments in Chino Valley.

"You have some kids that at 12-years-old have been playing for four or five years. And then when Little League is over with, then they jump on a travel team and they play weekend ball down in Phoenix," Kincaid added. "So you've got some kids that are really good baseball players."

The winner of the double-elimination 11-12 tournament advances to the state level. The state winner qualifies for the West region tournament in San Bernardino, Calif., from Aug. 2-10. The team left standing advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport Aug. 15-25.

In the meantime, this weekend's tournaments in Cottonwood are for the 9-10 and 10-11 all-stars, who will end their seasons this weekend.

Teams representing the Verde Valley, Prescott Valley, Camp Verde, Williams, Dewey-Humboldt, Chino Valley, Sedona, Wickenburg, Prescott and Bagdad open the 9-10 baseball bracket on Saturday.

The 10-11 all-stars is just a three-team bracket, with clubs representing Prescott, Camp Verde and the Verde Valley competing on Saturday.

It's also Little League softball weekend in Cottonwood. The 9-10 all-star bracket featuring Prescott Valley, Bagdad and the Verde Valley opens Saturday.

The 11-12 softball all-stars' bracket includes Prescott Valley, Bagdad, Camp Verde, Williams and Verde Valley, and begins Saturday. Down the road, the 11-12 Little League Softball World Series takes place Aug. 8-14 in Portland, Ore.

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