LUTZ — For Florida's best 11- and 12-year-old baseball players, the road to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., will pass through Lutz next month.
The sleepy suburb north of Tampa will host the state Little League majors division tournament, which starts July 26. Champions of the state's eight Little League sections will battle it out at Oscar Cooler Park for the right to represent Florida in the Southeast Regional tournament in Georgia and — hopefully — the nationally televised World Series in Williamsport in August.
"The reaction was one of excitement. This puts us on the map as far as Little League goes," said David Crawford, vice president of operations for Lutz Little League, which was informed in January that it would host the tournament.
Hosting the state tournament is rotated through the state's 27 Little League districts. But this is a first for Lutz. Crawford said when league officials heard that it was Lutz's district's turn, "we jumped at the opportunity."
But Crawford knows that hosting a state tournament will take a lot of planning and work by league officials and volunteers. There are logistical matters, such as: identifying nearby hotels for the visiting teams and their families and friends; getting two fields ready for competition for the weeklong tournament; beefing up concession operations; and converting a board room into a command center to be used by various Little League officials for the duration of the tournament.
"My gut is telling me we will need anywhere from 25 to 30 volunteers on a daily basis," Crawford said. "Some will serve as ambassadors, some will work on field prep, scorekeeping and pitch counting."
Lutz Little League will get a warmup of sorts this weekend when it hosts a weeklong district Little League majors division tournament, which will feature all-star teams from neighboring leagues, including Dade City, Land O'Lakes, New Tampa and Temple Terrace.
Oscar Cooler is a sprawling complex of more than 10 baseball and softball fields just off N Dale Mabry Highway and W Lutz-Lake Fern Road. Besides Little League games, the complex also hosts tournaments for baseball and softball traveling teams.
Two other Tampa Bay-area Little League parks are hosting upcoming state Little League tournaments. Palma Ceia and Interbay Little Leagues in south Tampa will host the state tourney for junior division baseball (ages 13 to 14), and Dunedin Little League will host the state tournament for big league softball (ages 17 to 18).