All-Stars season has arrived for local Little Leaguers
| 12:07 a.m. July 2, 2015
The time of year is here once again, when Little Leaguers around West Orange trade in their uniforms reading team names such as “Red Sox” and “Rays” for uniforms donning their hometown colors with names such as “Windermere” and “Ocoee.”
All-Stars season is upon us, with tournaments for Little Leaguers ranging from 9 years old through 16 having ongoing through the next few weeks.
Teams representing Dr. Phillips, Ocoee, Windermere and Winter Garden all complete in Florida’s District 14, along with South Lake Little League. Champions have already been crowned in the 9-year-old division (Dr. Phillips) and Seniors (15/16-year-olds; Windermere), with play ongoing for the 9/10-year-olds and 10/11-year-olds.
Yet to begin are the Juniors (13/14-year-olds) and, perhaps the most glorified of all age groups, the 11/12-year-old All-Stars.
The 12-year-old teams are the ones who compete for a chance to advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and play on national television.
“They’re extremely excited with the opportunity of going all the way to Williamsport,” Michael Skaling, the head coach of Winter Garden’s 12-year-old team, said. “This is the year that they want to be there, and this is the year that they’re excited to go.”
For all of these All-Star teams, regardless of age group or end-game, the challenge is similar.
Coaches must take players who, during the regular season, largely competed against one another and make them into teammates. It’s a tough task, but nothing a little practice — and maybe some water balloons — can’t fix.
“It’s very chaotic with the kids and, because you’re blending so many different kids from so many different teams from so many different coaching philosophies, you have to reach them both athletically and socially,” said Mark Lewis, who is coaching the Windermere-American 12-year-old All-Star team. “So we kind of opened practice … I filled up a cooler with water balloons — they had no idea … and we just blasted them. That broke the ice for everybody.”
In addition to the challenge of building chemistry and competing against the stiff competition here in Central Florida, there is another factor with which each manager has to contend — the weather.
During a time of year during which afternoon thunderstorms are about as reliable as the sun coming up in the morning, it is important for coaching staffs to have a game plan for dealing with children and teenagers during delays that can last for hours.
“They’re used to it — these guys made All-Stars because they’ve been playing baseball for years,” said Robert Dickerson, head coach of the Windermere-National 12-Year-Old All-Star team. “They’re used to these rain delays; sitting in the car waiting and then coming back and trying to refocus — even at 12 (years old).”