The Pennsylvania Babe Ruth 13 Prep State Baseball Tournament has returned to Seitz Field and will be hosted by the Altoona Teener Baseball League for the second year in a row.
It's back, apparently, by popular demand.
"I think the state organization was extremely pleased with our facility and how we ran the tournament last year,'' tournament director Victor Curfman said. "We put in a bid for it again this year, and we were selected again.''
The nine-team state tournament for 13-year-olds begins today at 5 p.m. with Mifflin County taking on Middletown. Host Altoona will open tournament play at 8 p.m. against Ridley.
Each of the nine teams will play four games from today through Sunday with the top six, based on records, then advancing to the playoff round. On Monday, the sixth-place team will play the fourth-place team, and No. 5 and No. 3 will also meet. Those two winners will face the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the semifinals on Tuesday with the championship slated for 5 p.m. next Wednesday. All games will be held at Seitz Field, unless weather dictates otherwise.
The Altoona entry, which recently placed second to West End in the District 8 tournament in Coudersport, is comprised of all-stars from the Altoona Teener Minor League.
"It's a really good thing for Altoona to have the whole state coming here,'' Altoona coach Jim Kulik said. "From what I saw at Coudersport, we'll be up against some stiff competition. But if the kids lose their nerves and come to play, I think we can compete with everybody.''
Blue Valley won the title last year but won't be represented in this year's tourney. In addition to Altoona, Ridley, Mifflin County, Middletown and West End, other teams competing this year are Broomall/Newtown, Brookhaven, Valley West and Pottsville.
The Altoona Teener League is also sending a group of 15-year-olds to the Pa. Babe Ruth 15 Prep State Baseball Tournament in Williamsport, beginning Thursday. The Altoona team secured a spot in the tourney by placing second in the district tournament in Clearfield.
"Every kid on our team played junior varsity or high school baseball,'' Altoona 15-year-old team coach, Denny Martin, said. "So we have a lot of kids who have seen a lot of good pitching. We should be able to hit. If we show up on defense, I think we'll do well. I'd be surprised if we don't at least advance to the playoff round.''
Curfman, an Altoona Teener League board member, said the affiliation with Babe Ruth has worked out well for the league.
"We felt [the tournament] was a good effort last year,'' Curfman said. "It was beneficial to the league - it got us a lot of exposure. We saw it with registrations - we had 30 more kids out playing than we had last year, and we added two more teams. Since joining Babe Ruth, it's worked out great.''