After months of planning and five years of improving and upgrading their fields, Ishpeming Little League officials are in the midst of hosting the state Majors Division baseball tournament.
A total of 16 teams, and some 240 players ages 11 and 12 and their coaches, are taking part in the week-long tourney, which is set to end - weather permitting - with the championship game at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Though tourney organizers have worked hard to make sure all details have been met, one thing is missing:
The Ishpeming Majors All-Star team.
Despite being the host team, the squad isn't a member of the tourney field.
That's because Ishpeming lost in the District 11 playoffs to Portage Lake, bowing twice in title games.
"We had to win one of two games and we just didn't do it," tourney director Jeff Adriano said, noting Sault Ste. Marie, Iron Mountain and Portage Lake are the three Upper Peninsula teams that made the tourney field. "I just wish Ishpeming was one of them."
No doubt. The Ishpeming Little League will have costs of approximately $10,000 for the event when all is said and done, including $3,000 to $4,000 for food and lodging for volunteer umpires.
A fundraising program, as well as securing local advertising, will take care of some of that expense.
Having an Ishpeming Majors team in the tourney would have helped - at the very least - with concession revenue when you're talking 100 to 200 local residents watching a game or games.
"At the very least, we're hoping to break even for the tournament, not lose money," Adriano said.
When local officials first bid to host the tourney, they assumed Ishpeming would automatically field a team as the host squad.
"When we hosted the Junior (Division) state tourney in 2003, we would have been an automatic qualifier, though we ended up winning a district title (to advance)," Adriano said.
He assumes Michigan State Little League officials have since decided teams playing in the state tournament have to qualify by winning their district.
He'd like to see a host team that doesn't win a district title have a play-in game for an opportunity to compete in the states. For example, Ishpeming meeting the District 5 winner - chosen by a random drawing - to play for a tournament berth.
That would no doubt be unpopular, of course, for the District 5 team that may have traveled a great distance to get to Ishpeming and only be able to play one game if it lost in the play-in contest.
State officials no doubt want to have only district winners competing in the state tournament. While their intentions are good, it doesn't help the local team hosting the tourney that failed to win a district crown.
There should be some "reward" for those hosting the tournament and all the work that goes into it.
Adriano said it's still "an honor" to serve as state tournament host and have the opportunity to show off the Ishpeming Little League, the greater Ishpeming community and the U.P.
He just wishes the Ishpeming Majors All-Stars team was playing in the tourney.
That makes two of us.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.