BANGOR, Maine — The success of Bangor’s baseball teams this summer has created a potentially difficult situation for some of their players.
On Sunday, the Bangor American Legion team won its first state championship since 1979. The Senior League all-stars captured the District 3 championship last month to earn a berth in the Senior League World Series.
Six players who are on both Bangor’s American Legion and Senior League World Series teams could miss some SLWS games next week as a result of overlapping tournament dates.
The double-elimination American Legion Northeast Regional tournament begins Thursday in Middletown, Connecticut, and the SLWS opens round-robin play Sunday at Mansfield Stadium in Bangor.
“It is a really awkward situation,” said Johnny Cote, who plays second base for the SLWS team and was a reserve for the Legion ballclub. “I want to be here (in Bangor) with these guys but, at the same time, I want to be at the Legion tournament. It was a real tough decision.”
The six players, four of whom are starters, traveled to Connecticut on Wednesday and play Thursday at 4:30 p.m. against Cheshire, Connecticut, the state champion.
Bangor plays again Friday at either 9:30 a.m. or 4:30 p.m. The tournament concludes Monday.
That means Bangor’s Legion participants could miss as many as two SLWS contests.
The Senior League team opens play in Bangor on Sunday at noon against the yet-to-be determined Canadian champion. On Monday, Bangor faces Asia-Pacific titlist Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands at 5 p.m. before an off day on Tuesday.
Pitcher-first baseman-outfielder Trevor DeLaite called it a tough situation but is taking it in stride.
“I knew it was a possibility. It’s unique. I’m just going to take it in and have a good time,” said DeLaite. ”We want to stay as long as we can at the Legion tournament.”
If the Legion team wins a game on Thursday or Friday, it would play again on Saturday so the players could miss Sunday’s SLWS opener.
Cote feels there is enough talent on the SLWS team to overcome the absence of the six players if a conflict does arise.
“I’m comfortable with those guys (doing the job). They have good talent. They can get the job done,” said Cote.
Shortstop Kyle Stevenson and center fielder Ryan Brookings, starters for both teams, said the players want to compete in both tournaments. Several played in the SLWS a year ago and noted that getting an opportunity to play in the American Legion World Series would be a new thrill.
Bangor would have to win the Northeast Regional to achieve that goal.
Seven of Bangor’s SLWS players helped the Junior American Legion team capture the state championship on Sunday. They opted to play in the SLWS rather than play in the Junior Legion northeast regional, so Bangor won’t send a team to that tourney.
“It’s a bummer but at least we have another tournament (SLWS) to play in,” said Bangor pitcher and infielder Jesse Colford.
Members of the Junior Legion team will fill the void left by the American Legion players if they can’t make it back from Connecticut in time.
“We’re just going to play it by ear. We’ve never been in this situation before,” said Bangor Senior League coach Barrett Dionne. “Hopefully, they’ll get back in time to play in the tournament.”
Dionne acknowledged the awkwardness of the situation but said he will be comfortable with whatever lineup he puts on the field.
“We’ll do what we have to do to make sure we have nine guys ready to play on Sunday,” said Dionne. “We had some (non-American Legion) players who came up big in the district tournament like (Nick) Cowperthwaite and (Derek) Fournier and I feel they can do the same in this tournament. We’re going to need some other guys to step up and they know that.”
If the American Legion players are still in Connecticut, Dionne said Colford, Jake Ireland, Joey Moir, Tanner Goodine, Cowperthwaite and Sam Southwick are among those likely to be thrust into starting roles.
Dionne knows the American Legion team faces a daunting task.
“Their confidence is sky-high right now. They’re on a good streak,” Dionne said. “The difference down there is they will be facing teams that will have five or six college players on their rosters and we didn’t have much of that up here this year.”
The Bangor American Legion team doesn’t have any college players and was one of the youngest teams in the state tournament.