World Series hopefuls play for B.C. title in Walnut Grove

The first day of March in Langley felt more like mid-January.

At Walnut Grove Park, a patch of frozen snow stuck to a piece of grass in front of a dugout at George Zarrelli Majors Diamond.

An arctic wind whistled, roaring in the faces of coaches and players doing evaluations in preparation for the upcoming baseball season.

At first blush, it seemed like an odd time for North Langley Baseball president Kelly Parker along with tournament director Mike Fredo to be promoting the B.C. Little League (11/12) majors championships, set for mid-July at the park.

For B.C. teams, this is the second step on a road that could very well lead to the fabled Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

The winner of the July 18-27 provincial tournament advances to the Canadian championships taking place July 31 to Aug. 6 in Valleyfield, Quebec.

Whichever team emerges from that tournament will represent Canada against the baseball world in Williamsport from Aug. 14-24.

The still-to-be-formed North Langley all-star team decided to opt out of the district tourney – also at Walnut Grove Park from July 4-13 – instead taking the automatic berth as the host team at the B.C. tournament.

At the 11/12 Majors level, District 3 is historically one of the most competitive in B.C., featuring Coquitlam, Langley, Whalley, and White Rock/South Surrey.

Parker said, “District 3 has been recognized as the toughest district in Canada to get out of.”

Fredo said every league in the province had an opportunity to draft a proposal to host the B.C. championships.

North Langley got the nod, marking the first time in 14 years that the community has hosted this tournament,

“They were sold on our park, and our community which is first rate,” Fredo said.

History shows that the road to Williamsport may very well be paved through Walnut Grove.

B.C. teams have won three of the last four Canadian championships. The Langley Little League squad captured the Canadian title in 2011 and went on to wear the nation’s red and white jerseys in Williamsport.

Last summer, a team from East Nepean Little League in Ottawa won the title, ending an eight-year run of B.C. teams capturing the Canadian championship.

Before the 2013 tourney, the Canadian Little League champions hailed from Hastings (2012), Langley (2011), Little Mountain (2010), Hastings (2009), White Rock/South Surrey (2008 and 2007), and Whalley (2006 and 2005)

This begs the question: does the host team have what it takes to win the B.C. title and, later on, reclaim this province’s title as best in Canada?

“It’s hard to say,” Parker said. “We have a chance like anyone else in the tournament. It comes down to pitching. Especially at this age, it’s premium.”

North Langley Diamond Sports are already well into the organizing phase. Planning started in October and the tournament committee consists of 11 members.

“We want to make it most enjoyable for the kids and the fans,” Fredo said. “We want to push the excitement. These things don’t come around very often.”

More volunteers are needed. Anyone interested can email Fredo at 2014tournamentchair@nlbaseball.ca or Parker at president@nlbaseball.ca.

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