*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 18, 2018, Local Edition.
Budget Sports Report
They put in the work but they won’t be allowed to play.
That is the message 15- and 16- year-olds on the Hawks Senior League team are hearing loud and clear from the tournament directors associated with the Senior League Little League World Series.
For the past 10 summers, the team has secured a spot to play in the Central Regional tournament. What has ensued have been incredible road trips to Illinois or Missouri that have been filled with memories. Their wins have given them starring roles in welcome home parades through downtown Berlin.
Three times the team has gone on to play in the Senior League of the Little League World Series with family, friends and local media close behind.
Yet, that will not be the case this year for the team.
You see, on July 9, just a day after winning the opportunity to play in the final game of the Ohio tournament in Maumee, the team was informed that they had to withdraw from the tournament.
There are no other senior teams in District 4, making it nearly impossible to play the required list of 10 games during the summer prior to the tournament. The fact isn’t new and hasn’t changed. However, the nod from officials from Little League that has allowed the team to proceed in the past was not present this year.
Hiland Varsity Baseball Coach Chris Dages noted the kids were simply crushed after learning their opportunity to play for the berth to the next level was snatched away. In the past, after needed paperwork is filed, a waiver was issued to the team noting that it is not possible for them to
play 10 games prior to the tournament because there are no other teams in the area.
According to Little League officials, not having teams to play against is not a valid reason. They noted that if they had known about the issue, they would have set up games with other districts.
However, that would be a problem for Hiland, as the nearest district involves driving three hours, one way in order to play. Destinations like Maumee and Miami would be part of the list.
For coaches alone, the idea is unfathomable as they would need to find ways to transport the team because families would not be able to make those trips on weeknights.
As for the future, no one is certain. The team participates in the Stark-Summit Baseball League (SSBL) that includes athletes from Stark, Summit, Holmes and Tuscarawas counties. The Hawks are currently undefeated.