PITTSBURG — College and high school baseball seasons may be wrapping up in the area, but competitive hardball is far from over.
From May 20 to 24, the City of Pittsburg will host the National Club Baseball Association Division II World Series at Jaycee Ballpark for the second consecutive year.
“We’re excited about having the NCBA Division II World Series back in town,” said Crawford County Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director B.J. Harris. “What’s exciting about this tournament is the pace of play. The way they kind of run their tournament is it gives the teams a chance to be showcased, but it also gives them a chance to get out and enjoy the community while they are here.”
The NCBA World Series is bringing eight teams from around the country to Pittsburg for a five-day, double-elimination tournament to decide the Division II Club Baseball Champion. NCBA Director of DII Baseball Operations Eric Curitore said Pittsburg has proven to be an attractive destination.
“Last year was our first year in Pittsburg, and we kind of went into it not really knowing what to expect,” Curitore said. “Our first year was a huge success. The support of the city was fantastic and, obviously, the park itself was beautiful.
“One of the big things for us that we really liked when we first got contacted by B.J. Harris with the Crawford County CVB was we were on their radar. They really wanted us and we could tell they would go out of their way to make it work ... [Pittsburg] has great amenities too. There’s a great downtown area — it’s a college town with lots to do. These college kids can feel right at home.”
Each of the eight teams headed to Pittsburg are district champions from the regular season, which started in February. Those districts are divided up into three conferences filled with a number of teams in their region.
At the conclusion of the regular season, the three conference champions and one wild-card team — a club team who finished with the best record which didn’t win their conference championship — in each district played in a double-elimination regional tournament, with the winner earning a trip to the NCBA Division II World Series.
The eight teams playing in the DII World Series are as follows: District I Champion - Penn State University; District II Champion - University of Maryland; District III Champion - University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; District IV Champion - Slippery Rock University; District V Champion - University of Windsor; District VI Champion - Saint Louis University; District VII Champion - Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and District VIII Champion - University of San Diego.
“We have some big-name schools [in the World Series]. A lot of these kids had the opportunity to play in NCAA Division II baseball, the smaller DI schools and DIII programs,” Curitore said. “They chose to go to Penn State or Maryland for the big-time college experience ... We always compare it to NCAA DII baseball in terms of level of play. A lot of these guys just didn’t want the full-time commitment of a big-time varsity program. They just wanted to have some more fun while competing and still playing. It’s really good baseball.”
The NCBA program was started in 2000 to give talented collegiate baseball players all over the country an opportunity to continue playing the game they love without having to commit to the rigors of being on an NCAA or NJCAA baseball team. With the popularity growing at a rapid pace, the NCBA decided to expand its product by adding a second division. There are currently 282 club baseball teams in the NCBA, with 151 of those teams playing in Division II.
One of those teams came from Pittsburg, thanks in large part to the success of the DII World Series a year ago. Pittsburg State’s Nate Grimaldi and V.J. Piccini were in the stands at Jaycee Ballpark last May and got the idea to start up a club baseball team for PSU. In its inaugural season, the Pitt State club baseball team won their conference and earned a trip to the District VI Regional Tournament in Huntingburg, Indiana.
“I was excited to hear [Grimaldi and Piccini] decided to put their team together because the event was in Pittsburg last year,” Harris said. “Pitt State — not just being successful, which was nice as well — but just the fact that they took the initiative shows a good-faith gesture to the [NCBA] that we’re the home for their tournament. We are passionate about baseball here, and it’s a major part of our summer past time.”
Adults - $5 for a day pass, $20 for a tournament pass.
Students - $4 for a day pass, $16 for a tournament pass.
Youth (12 & Under) - $3 for a day pass, $12 for a tournament pass.
Senior Citizens - $3 for a day pass, $12 for a tournament pass.
No advanced ticket sales, cash and credit cards are accepted.
For more information, visit http://www.clubbaseball.org/Div2/Championship.aspx.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on twitter @LDsportswriter.