National Regional Tournament Restructuring
As tough economic times have hit the country, most businesses have looked to reduce spending and costs where possible. The American Legion is no different, and this summer will begin a new policy that aims to reduce travel costs and concerns for national regional play. In years past, those states with more than one representative (both Pennsylvania and NJ in the Mid-Atlantic) would send their teams to different tournaments. For instance, PA would send their state champion (in most years) to the Mid-Atlantic National Regional Tournament while sending their runner-up to the Great Lakes National Regional Tournament. New Jersey's representatives would head to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Regional Tournaments.
The summer of 2011 will be the first year of a different tournament format, in which a state will send all of its representatives to the same tournament. That means this year when the tournament is held in Boyertown, PA, that three teams from the Keystone State will be at Bear Stadium vying for the coveted berth into the ALB World Series. New Jersey will do the same, sending both of its teams to the Mid-Atlantic tournament as well.
Here are the changes broken down when comparing last year (the old format) to this year (the new format) and what it means for your favorite teams.
Mid-Atlantic National Regional
Pennsylvania (state champ/runner-up), New Jersey (state champ/runner-up), Delaware, New York, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and the host.
Great-Lakes National Regional
Pennsylvania (runner-up/state champ), Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota (runner-up/state champ), Wisconsin, Michigan, and the host.
Mid-Atlantic National Regional
Pennsylvania champion, Pennsylvania runner-up, New Jersey champion, New Jersey runner-up, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, and the host.
So what's it all mean? To begin with, there will be a lot less variety in the teams that descend on Boyertown this year and in future tournaments. Instead of seven states represented, there will be just five. New York will now be a part of the Northeast Regional and Virginia will send its team to the Southeast Regional. As you may recall, the Virginia state champions took home the Mid-Atlantic crown last season.
The Mid-Atlantic Tournament has always been thought to be one of the toughest regional tournaments in the country, most notably because PA and NJ both generally send their state champions there. New York's representatives have not done too well in the tournament in the past, so, despite losing a usually strong Virginia team, this move should help bolster the competition in the Mid-Atlantic. Adding the Pennsylvania runner-up, which in most years makes a solid showing at the Great Lakes Regional, will give the state a much better chance of winning the tournament year in and year out. With Boyertown hosting this year, three of the eight squads will hail from the Commonwealth.
There are of course downsides to this move, including the aforementioned teams departing the tournament. In addition, those PA Legion Baseball lovers (we'll admit, we're one of them!) who dreamed of seeing an all Pennsylvania national title game one day will have to wait for a possible shift in formatting in the future.
It will be interesting to see the matchups between the three PA teams this year at the tournament. Generally the state champion and runner-up fight it out over the five day state tournament, but with two available bids, getting to the finals is of the utmost importance. It's very possible we could see one team win the state title this year and then be ousted the next week by the very team they beat. Here's hoping for an all PA final, and if you want to be greedy, perhaps an all PA final day as well.
What is your take on the shake-up? Will it greatly affect the tournament or play a minimal role in how things pan out? As always, comment and let us hear your opinion!