As Team B.C. from Hastings competed for its Little League World Series lives Monday, Trail Little Leaguers were following it closely.
Despite losing a heartbreaking 4-3 match to the Caribbean Monday afternoon, Trail Allstar coach D. J. Ashman recognized the depth and quality of the Hastings team when it won the B.C. Little League championship at Andy Bilesky Park in Trail last month. The team from Vancouver-Burnaby then waltzed through the Canadians to make its second pilgrimage to Williamsport in the past four years.
“I think they can do really good,” said Ashman before the loss. “Mike (Boisvert) and I were just talking about it. In our five years of coaching this is the best team to come out of B.C.”
Ashman knows what it’s like to win a Canadian title; he was part of the last Trail team to make the trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. in 1990.
“It was unbelievable, you are basically treated like a rock star,” he said.
In addition to playing in the hallowed confines of Lamonde Stadium, the players received new uniforms, bats, and other equipment, as well as garnering ample attention from the fans.
“It was nice, and then people are asking you for autographs and you’re 12-years-old, like it was weird.”
In 1990 there were just four American teams and four international teams engaged in a single knockout tournament, compared to the16 team, double-knockout in today’s Series.
The 1990 Trail Allstars beat Mexico in the opening game before falling prey to a suspected over-age squad from Taipei that was disqualified two years later for illegal players.
Protocol has changed drastically since then, just ask the team from Uganda that was denied entry into the World Series last year because of incomplete paper work.
“That’s why, when we do our roster to Little League Canada we have to have a Google map to the people’s house, you have to prove not only the kid’s birth certificate – but for your parents, you have to have a tax assessment and a utility bill, it’s crazy,” said Ashman.
Despite losing to Hastings in the provincial tournament, Ashman believes that Trail is not far from winning another provincial title and even making another foray to the promised land.
At the provincials, Hastings manager Vito Bordignon told the Times that getting out of the provincial tournament was the toughest test on the road to Williamsport.
“The B.C. championship is the most difficult challenge we’ll have to face. Not taking anything away from the Canadians, but B.C. we have a fine program.”
Hastings did have an easier time winning the Canadian championship than it did the provincials, a good indication that Trail Little League is at least on par with the best Canadian teams.
“We really are, and I keep telling everybody, we are that close and it’s just a matter of a good run,” said Ashman. “Andy Bilesky in 50-plus years of coaching had 12 provincial champions and five Canadian champions, so he had those five teams that were just that good. I have this feeling that I’m going to get a couple of these teams and I’m going to go to this World Series.”
Trail Little League has begun to concentrate more on the younger generation, running Teaching for Tomorrow camps and spending more time developing Little League minor players.
“It’s all about teaching the five, and six and seven and eight year olds the fundamentals so when they get to the nine and 10 level they already know how to play first base, and I’m not teaching them at 12 years old.”
Ashman and his coaching staff of Boisvert and Jason Startup are committed, and if they can generate as much passion and enthusiasm from their players as they possess, the future indeed looks bright for the Trail Little League Allstars.