Growing up as a kid, I was always taught to have fun while playing baseball. It’s true for any sport, but particularly baseball. If you can’t have fun, you should not be playing. Baseball, and sports in general, should be fun for everyone involved.
Now, winning makes that easier of course.
For many young kids, the pressure can be to much. Not this group!
This team has faced elimination ten times this season. Talk about pressure. There is no situation more pressure packed then when you are staring into the eyes of elimination. It’s been win or go home.
They continue to come out on the winning end. “We don’t let the pressue bother us,” said shortstop Patrick Marinaccio.
Whether it was a big hit, a double play, a diving catch, or a strikeout, Toms River National has gotten the job done.
Toms River outscored it’s opponents 55-15 in their last five regional finals games to advance to the Little League World Series. This team can flat out hit. They average about 12 runs per game while slugging nearly four homers per game.
It’s all about staying positive and having fun. Of course the team went through their serious practice this week when they arrived at Williamsport. After all, a whole new field requires adjustments. The fields of Lamade and Volunteer Stadium are bigger than many of the fields Toms River has played on this season.
Once the serious part of practice was completed, Toms River manager Paul Deceglie allowed his team to loosen up and have some fun. He allowed the players to dive for grounders and fly balls, all the things every twelve year old ballplayer wants to do.
The players were also taking turns tossing balls in the air at home plate and knocking them out of the park. The coach even got into the action when he made some $5 bets. Deceglie should have known better. His team has hit 86 home runs in 24 games this season. He had to pay out $20.
Keeping things fun is important. It helps the youngsters relax before the pressure and excitement intensify on Saturday when they open play against Hamilton, Ohio. Hamilton is representing the Great Lakes Region. The game begins at 11 a.m.
Toms River is no stranger to the Little League World Series. This is the first time Toms River National has advanced this far, but the town of Toms River had seen Toms River East reach the big stage three time throughout the 90′s, including 1998 when they won the World Championship.
The town still talks about that ’98 team. This is a baseball town.
“I remember when Toms River East made it and we were literally glued to what was going on, day in, day out. The town was humming.” said Deceglie
Local restuarants and bars have already been showing the Toms River National games on televisions. Sometimes even over the Yankees and Mets games. Some local residents and fans got together to watch the Regional Finals game from the Ritacco Center.
Toms River National finds itself in a tough pool as the Little League World Series opens. They are in Pool A which also includes known national powers Columbus, Georgia and Waipahu, Hawaii.
Every team is a good team. They have to be or else they would not have made it this far.
The team participated in a parade in Williamsport yesterday. Opening Ceremonies take place at 11am this morning with the first game starting at 1:00 this afternoon.
Toms River National’s first game is Saturday at 11:00 AM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
As every team is good when you get to this point in the tournament, sometimes it comes down to who is having fun and playing fundamental baseball. If that’s the case, Toms River has an excellent chance to advance deep into this talented tournament.
I know the town and the state of New Jersey will rally around this group of 12 year old’s. If you have not yet seen this team play, you should tune in this weekend. It will help remind you just what sports is all about.