WATSONVILLE—For two weeks, the District 39 Little League baseball organization used Franich Park to host a pair of the largest tournaments in Northern California.
Twelve of the best teams from Hollister to Eureka battled in the Majors Section and NorCal All-Star tournaments on Ruso Field—home for Pajaro Valley Little League.
The Tri-City All-Star team of District 11 defeated San Mateo American of District 52, 10-2, in the NorCal All Star championship game on July 28.
Tri-City moves on to the Regional All Star Tournament in San Bernardino. The winner of that tournament earns a trip to the Little League World Series.
“These kids are playing their hearts out,” said District 39 President Gene Carlisle, who played a big role in bringing both tournaments to Watsonville.
Section 5 has five districts including District 39, the district Pajaro Valley calls home. The districts have a rotation to see which one gets to host the Section tournaments.
For the state tournament, there are seven sections in Northern California and they also have a rotation to see who gets to host the NorCal Tournament.
This year, District 39 and the city of Watsonville got to host both the Section and NorCal tournaments.
Aptos Little League represented District 39 in the Section 5 Majors Tournament. They lost 4-3 to Los Gatos Little League in the championship game.
Carlisle said that the Jean and Ed Kelly Foundation was instrumental in helping the tournament get up and running.
“[The Kelly’s] helped us do some of the behind-the-scenes things and help pay for our barbecue, shirts for the kids and all kinds of stuff,” Carlisle said.
Ed Kelly, the founder of the Jean and Ed Kelly Foundation, said Carlisle also did a lot of work for Watsonville to host the tournaments.
“To me, it was very successful,” Kelly said. “We have had a lot of camaraderie and we had a lot of good 12-year-old baseball. And more importantly, we had a lot of people meeting people and people finding out what Watsonville is all about.”
Kelly, 80, was approached by someone who traveled from Rocklin to let him know how much they enjoyed their stay in town.
Carlisle said one of the main reasons District 39 chose to have both tournaments at Franich Park is because of the beautiful field. Plus, the lights were a major bonus for games scheduled in the evening.
“All the managers and kids have been telling me they’ve been loving it,” Carlisle said.
Kelly’s foundation helped build the baseball complex. He mentioned they did a huge amount of restoration work this year in anticipation of the tournaments.
It’s been 25 years since they’ve had any kind of upgrades. Kelly said he wants PVLL to have a first-class facility to play on, as well.
“What it’s all about is providing for young 12-year-olds to have an experience they’ll never forget and hopefully we did that the last two weeks with all these teams,” he said.