It was mere days ago that Gig Harbor’s eight, nine and ten year olds celebrated a district title that clinched a spot in the state tournament. How could it get any better?
Home field advantage.
In rotating fashion, each of Washington’s thirteen Little League districts share hosting rights to the state championship. And this season — rather, this week — District Two gets its turn.
But progressing from a district victory to hosting the championship for the first time in city history is quite the jump.
When asked about the order of events that granted Gig Harbor hosting rights for the division, City Little League Treasurer Ron Brentin, who has been involved with Gig Harbor Little League for over 20 years, provided a simple answer.
“We requested it.”
In the rare instance District Two holds the state tournament, district administrators decide on a set location for the week-long event. But after a formal request from Brentin and the Gig Harbor Little League, administrators granted eight-to-ten division hosting rights to a city they never had before.
The tournament’s first game now sits just days away. Starting this weekend, Gig Harbor’s team rides a tournament victory into the state championship with a city rallying behind them in their home bleachers.
Brentin emphasized the impact of having a home team in the tournament.
“It definitely does [make an impact]. It takes a lot of volunteers to put this on. … When you have a hometown team, [the community] gets really enthused.”
For the ball players, winning the district is no small feat. A team must topple a dozen other squads to compete at the state level. For this local bunch to play in the state tournament on their own fields — call it destiny.
The tournament represents the first time the city has hosted the eight-to-ten division in Washington’s Little League Championship. But six years ago, Gig Harbor hosted the nine, ten and eleven year-old contests. Brentin — a large role player in bringing that state tournament to the city — knows what to expect throughout the upcoming week.
“There’s great attendance. You’ll see little leaguers all over the city,” Brentin said. “They can only play one game a day … so they stay in town.”
Similar to the district tournament, Gig Harbor is one of thirteen teams vying for the state title — each team representing one of Washington’s districts.
But excitement and anticipation extends beyond players and parents. The community prepares to pack the stands, root for their local team and welcome the dozen opposing groups to the city in pursuit of their own state title hopes.
“I think [the city is] excited,” Brentin said. “We put on the [nine-ten-eleven tournament] six years ago. A lot of people love to come to Gig Harbor. You could see the kids walking all over the city.”
Youth baseball only continues to grow locally. And with the state tournament commencing at Gig Harbor’s Little League Fields Saturday, it’s a perfect time to witness a spike in participation.
Last season, Brentin estimated that 700 kids competed in Gig Harbor’s Little League.
“With this growth and this town, the way they’re building ... its amazing how many kids we get.”