Hollywood Park will be hopping this month when Beacon Hill Little League welcomes the nation for the 2015 National Softball Championship Tournament.
The five-day tournament will double as the Canadian Little League Softball Championship for players aged 11 and 12 and the Canadian Junior League Softball Championship for players aged 13 and 14. It’s the first time the two championships have been combined into one tournament, says Joanne Bolzonello, tournament director.
All games will be played at Hollywood Park July 25 to 29, and in addition to the two Beacon Hill teams competing at their Fairfield Avenue park, the Layritz Majors team has also qualified as the B.C. representative in the younger division. In addition to national bragging rights, teams compete for the honour of representing Canada at the Softball World Series Championships.
Kelsie Hawkins, assistant coach and pitching coach for Beacon Hill’s junior team, has been sharing with the girls some of her experiences winning nationals both in 2003 and in 2004, in front of a home-town crowd.
Winning at home in extra innings before hundreds of spectators, and the ensuing experience at the Little League World Series was unforgettable for Hawkins, who went on to play college ball and compete for Team BC at the Canada Games.
“It felt like the biggest thing in the world at the time,” she says. “I still think that is the coolest thing I ever did.”
While Hawkins imparts some of that experience to the girls, the team and coaching staff are also focused on the task at hand.
“We try hard not to think too far ahead; they’re pretty focused, I think,” Hawkins says.
Following Beacon’s Hill’s 62-day regular season, league president Alan Calder looks forward to an exciting summer of tournment ball.
“Our all-star teams are assembled and our coaches and players are excited to represent Beacon Hill on a larger stage,” Calder says. “We are grateful to have been selected to host the National Softball Championship Tournament and look forward to welcoming teams from other provinces and to showcasing the nation’s best young softball players at the best ball park in the City of Victoria.”
In addition to 2004 championships, Beacon Hill also hosted the event in 2009 and 2010. Three teams are so far confirmed in each division, with around 100 players expected.
Organizers are hoping to raise $7,000 to help off-set the costs of hosting the national tournament and welcome community support through sponsorships, food donations for the buffet dinner and support of the club’s coming fundraisers, Bolzonello says.
The group has launched a Go Fund Me campaign at www.gofundme.com/beaconhillsoftball and is planning several community fundraising events.
The Junior Softball World Series is in Kirkland, WA from Aug. 2 to 8. The Little League Softball World Series is in Portland, OR from Aug. 13 to 19.
“For many of these girls, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to compete in a national event in front of their community,” Bolzonello says.
Sports fans will also want to mark their calendars for the event. “We expect the players to display a high level of skill and play with a lot of enthusiasm,” Bolzonello says.
“This will be a very exciting tournament, especially when the Layritz Little League Major girls face off with the Beacon Hill Little League Major girls.
“We would love to have the community come out and show their support for youth sports and girls’ softball in particular. Please come out and cheer for all the teams who come from cross Canada to compete for the chance to play in a Little League World Series.”