The wait was worth it. For the first time in Gilroy Little League history, it will host a NorCal State Baseball Championship. The 10-and-under, double elimination tournament starts on Saturday at the Sports Park complex and features seven section champions ranging from the California-Oregon border to Bakersfield.
If the eventual champion runs the table, NorCals will be done on July 30. If there is a winner-take-all championship game, the event will end the next day. This is the final stop for the 10U age group, making the tournament their de facto World Series.
Gilroy Little League was scheduled to host the event in 2019 and 2020 only to see both tournaments canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. In 2019, the NorCal State Championship was canceled after the tragic shooting at the Garlic Festival. In 2020, of course, Covid shut down the entire Little League season.
“As you can imagine, our board of directors are ecstatic to have such an honor to put Gilroy back on the map for the youth baseball community and for our very own community,” Gilroy Little League President Al Castro said.
Things kick off with an 11am game between the winners from Section 5 and Section 6, with opening ceremonies to take place after that (estimated start time of 1:30pm). Little League District 59 administrator Bob Ramirez and Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley will be among those to give speeches.
Castro said the Gilroy Little League board members want to recognize the ballpark committee members who were responsible for establishing the vision of a multi-purpose sports facility which eventually led to the development of the 79-acre Sports Park.
The importance of that can’t be understated because for Gilroy Little League to host NorCals, it needed adequate facilities and parking as deemed by the Western Region.
Castro said his cousin, Dennis, formed the Little League ballpark committee, which envisioned a sports complex to house both baseball and softball fields for the youth of Gilroy. The Sports Park opened in 2007. Al’s uncle, Dennis Castro Sr., was also a part of the committee.
“The ballpark committee was established in the late 1980s to fundraise for the sports complex, so this has been many years in the making,” Al Castro said. “They had a vision of what they wanted to do for Gilroy, and that was to have many ballfields as part of the sports complex. We’re trying to round up those members so they can come back to the park and see what they’ve done. Hopefully, it’s exciting for them because their vision helped us create a vision as far as hosting a state championship here in Gilroy.”
Gilroy’s 10U team was eliminated in the Section 5 tournament, which precedes NorCals. Gilroy is part of District 59 which will be represented by the Union All Stars of west San Jose. Seven teams comprise District 59, including Gilroy, Milpitas and five teams out of San Jose.
Little League International and the Western Region doesn’t give a stipend for the hosts to stage an event like NorCals, so fundraising remains paramount. Because of that, the undertaking to host an event like this takes community-wide involvement.
“We have to find sponsorships and people to donate money to put this tournament on,” Ramirez said. “Little League is a total volunteer-driven organization.”
Once Gilroy Little League was awarded NorCals in 2019, the board members started reaching out to local businesses to sponsor the event. Each board member is tasked with acquiring a sponsorship for the tournament.
“We’ve partnered up with Dick’s Sporting Goods, which has been a very huge help getting us the equipment we need to run the regular-season and help out with the postseason and championships,” Castro said.
The Gilroy Little League board members and select residents have been busy preparing the field and facility to make sure it’s immaculate and everything is compliant with the city ordinance.
“We’re getting everything aligned to make it possible for these players to come out and play some ball,” Castro said.
Ramirez hopes Gilroy residents make it a point to catch some of the games.
“I hope everyone supports Gilroy Little League and comes out to watch good baseball,” he said. “These 10 year olds are pretty good.”
Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]