This past Sunday, the Cranston National Budlong Junior League softball team opened up play in Kirkland, Washington for the Junior League Softball World Series- defeating a team from Bologna, Italy by a score of 3-2.
In the state of Rhode Island, national recognition is rare- that’s just how it is. For baseball and softball players from Cranston, however, rare is the last word they’d use to describe competing in the spotlight.
The freshest memory is from 2015, when Cranston Western Little League went to Williamsport, PA for the Little League World Series. They were eliminated by California after a few games, but it’s just taking the field in a World Series that makes all the difference to the athletes.
“It’s priceless,” Cranston Western’s Head Coach Gary Bucci said, speaking of his team’s experience in 2015. “They’ll have stories they’ll tell for a lifetime. They communicate, and they learn how these kids take different showers, and their sleeping patterns and eating patterns are different. There are a couple of kids who stayed in touch with kids from China.”
Even outside of the Little League level, Cranston seems to send impressive teams to the field each summer. With leagues merging and closing, and participants declining across the state, the number of representatives Cranston has sent to regional and national tournaments is almost alarming.
“There is so much emphasis on dedication,” Bucci said. “The parents already know they’re not going away on vacation. They’re going to practice hard every day. The commitment is community wide. They buy into it, and so do the parents.”
Their dominance on the diamond started at the beginning of the decade: Cranston Babe Ruth’s 13-year-old All Star Team travelled to Norwalk, Connecticut for the New England Regional tournament in 2011 and was victorious. They earned a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series in Clifton Park, NY. Two years later, in 2013, the same group of kids won the 15-year-old New England Regional in Newtown, Connecticut and traveled to Loudoun County, Virginia for the World Series.
Before they ceased operations in 2016, Cranston Babe Ruth was able to send several other teams to the New England Tournament. In 2014, two of CBR’s three All-Star teams won their respective state tournament. In 2015, Cranston’s 15-year-olds went to the New England tournament.
2015 was a huge summer for Cranston. Aside from CWLL’s trip to Williamsport, the city sent four other teams to regional tournaments. Cranston East Little League sent their Senior League All Stars to West Deptford to compete for the East Region. Elmwood Sports Center Post 20 also sent their Junior Legion team to regionals in Maine. Two years later, Elmwood Sports Center sent out another state champion from their Junior Legion team.
Which brings up the Girls of Summer 2018- Cranston’s newest team playing on the national scale. They stand at 1-1 after two days of the tournament, and are set to play Smithville, Texas tomorrow afternoon and Coamo, Puerto Rico the next day. Tournament play opens up on Thursday, and the World Championship is Saturday, Aug. 1 at 4 p.m. EST. Should Cranston be competing, or not, they can return home with their international connections, and watch their neighbors do the same thing in a few years.
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