Tournaments | Story | 10/28/2012

Sandy still messin' with World

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. -- What goes around comes around. And sometimes it's not gone all that long.

The same tropical storm system that almost kept teams from getting down here for the PG WWBA World Championship at the Roger Dean Sports Complex is now keeping many of those same teams from getting home.

"We flew into a hurricane and now we're flying right back into one," Mike Manning, the head coach of the Westchester, Pa.-based All-Star Baseball Academy said Sunday afternoon.

Hurricane Sandy left the Caribbean and moved north through the Atlantic Ocean more than 200 miles off the Florida coast on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, creating strong winds and rain that resulted in a serious disruption of the schedule at the WWBA World. But the event marched on.

Sandy is about to make landfall in the heavily populated Northeast, home to many of the country's busiest airports. According to online reports Sunday afternoon, airlines canceled more than 3,000 flights Sunday morning, and thousands more were cancelled for Monday, with the most in New York City, Newark, N.J., Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

The cancellations have affected the travel plans of several teams at the WWBA World Championship, including at least three that advanced to the 32-team playoffs Sunday afternoon. The players and coaches from the All-Star Baseball Academy, New Jersey-based Tri-State Arsenal and Upstate New York-based Syracuse Sports Zone were all determined to play out the string without worrying too much about when they might get home.

Dickie Woodridge, the head coach of the Syracuse Sports Zone, had seven players leave on early flights home, which left him operating with somewhat of a skeleton crew as SSZ entered the playoffs. All of his players that were flying through New York City were going to be staying in southeast Florida for several more days, at least through Wednesday.

"There's nothing anybody can do. We can't control this," he said with a shrug. The 23rd-seeded Syracuse Sports Zone moved into Sunday night's second round of the playoffs with a 5-3 upset win over the No. 10 Orlando Scorpions Purple in Sunday afternoon's first round.

"Unfortunately, people are going to have to spend extra money on hotel rooms, but the airlines have been pretty good and they're allowing us to change our flights at no cost, so that's a positive," Woodridge said. "Some of the guys are talking about possibly going up to Disney World for a day."

The All-Star Baseball Academy's Manning said he had been talking with his good friend Bob Barth from the Tri-State Arsenal about the possibility of hiring a bus in an effort to get their players home. Manning couldn't say with certainty if that would be a better option than waiting the storm out in hotel rooms in southeast Florida.

"We have a lot of responsibility," he said. "Probably 12 of my 17 kids are my responsibility because none of their parents are here. We're dealing with baseball right now and we're trying not to make too much of an issue out of it. We've talked about it for the last 24 hours and tried to formulate some sort of game-plan, but there's really nothing we can do until we get done playing here."

No. 11-seed All-American Baseball Academy was upset, 8-6, by the No. 22 All-American Prospects in Sunday's first round.

Tri-State Arsenal's Barth definitely saw the irony in Sandy playing such a prominent role in his team's comings and goings.

"We had some trouble getting in and we lost a couple of players that couldn't get in, but it wasn't that bad," he said. "But now we've lost a couple of players trying to get out early, and the rest of us, when we chose to stay and play in the playoffs, it pretty much makes us not being able to leave until November 1st, they're telling us."

Barth said that the extra nights spent in a hotel will probably cost his organization $5,000 to $6,000. He also confirmed he and Manning had discussed the option of hiring a bus.

"We talked about splitting the cost of a bus just to get the kids home, but that was more of a concern for them missing school -- the bus was going to cost the same thing as the hotel rooms and they're giving us the flights." Barth said. "With the schools being closed, I think we're going to sit here and bask in the sun. I mean, what the hell. I just hope we can pick up some scrimmage games. Maybe me and Manning can play if we can find a high school field or something."

The 15th-seeded Tri-State Arsenal beat No. 18 Mountain West '13, 3-2, in the first round.

The idea of playing some pick-up games was one the Syracuse Sports Zone's Woodridge liked.

"If we don't advance into (Monday), we've talked about coming out and trying to play somebody just to get another game in," he said.

The first and second rounds of the playoffs were completed late Sunday night, setting the stage for what promises to be an exciting Championship Monday. The quarterfinals are set for 8 a.m. and the semifinals at 10:20 a.m. at the Marlins (Blue) Quad, and the championship game will be played at Roger Dean Stadium with a scheduled start of 12:40 p.m.

Consolation games will be played all morning at the Cardinals (Red) Quad, eventually moving over to the Marlins' fields as they become available.

Despite their travel woes, the coaches from the Northeast teams were in agreement about the benefits of being at the PG WWBA World Championship in the first place.

"This is probably my 13th or 14th year coming down here, and once you get to the playoffs anything can happen," Manning said. "This is the best of the best and it's always been the best tournament every year, and we're excited to be back and back in the playoffs."

Manning's good friend Barth agreed:

"This has definitely been a good run," he said after his team's first round win. "When you're playing in this tournament, you're just hoping to get out of your pool. This is the best tournament in the country and every kid in the Northeast is dying to get down here. This is the best tournament that we come to every year. And now we get to sit around the pool for a few days."

Perhaps Syracuse Sports Zone's Woodridge said it best:

"This is fantastic that Perfect Game has an event like this. Our guys have gotten so much exposure and so much benefit out of playing four or five games here, it's well worth spending the extra money on the hotels that we're going to have to spend. It's all worth it."

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