Payson has been selected from several Northern Arizona communities to serve as host for both area and district Little League postseason tournaments.
Payson Little League President Stephanie Dvorak said officials in the local organization are excited about hosting the tournaments and will be putting their best foot forward to ensure the events go off without a hitch.
One of the advantages of having the tournaments in Payson, Dvorak said, is that the local team will have the home-field advantage.
"They'll be playing on the same field (Payson High School girls' softball field) as they did in the regular season."
The eight-team area tournament, for 11- and 12-year-old Little League Major Division players, will be held July 10 through July 13 on the PHS diamond. The district tournament which pits area winners against one another for the right to advance to the state championships will be held July 17 through July 20, also at Payson High.
Payson Little League will have an all-star team entered in the area tournament as well as a 9- and 10-year-old Minor Division team competing in the district tournament in Flagstaff. That fray begins July 6.
The first pitch of the Payson-hosted area tournament begins at 10 a.m. July 10 when Flagstaff Mt. Elden takes on Flagstaff. Action continues at 1 p.m. when Tuba City and Flagstaff Continental clash.
At 5 p.m. Flagstaff Coconino challenges always-tough Page.
The first day of play concludes at 8 p.m. with a Winslow vs. Payson clash.
The championship game of the double elimination diamond shoot-out is scheduled for 8 p.m. July 13.
Coaching the Payson entry in the Major tournament will be Anthony Piazza who led the Cubs to a 14-0 mark during regular season play.
Piazza will be coaching a group of standout players selected in a voting of coaches at the conclusion of the season, Dvorak said.
The Rim crews
The celestial crew includes Tommy Ashby, Matthew Behrens, Ryan Carrothers, Morgan Cassuto, Devin Dvorak, Donald Engler, Larry Everetts, Billy Herrin, Matt LeVac, Brennan McLaws, Dominic Piazza, Luke Runzo and Andy Sanders.
Fielding a 9- and 10-year-old all-star team for postseason play is a first for Payson.
The local league was able to send a team this year because officials decided at the beginning of the 2000 season last spring to discard the practice of using machines or coaches as pitchers, Dvorak said.
In all-star play, pitchers must come from the ranks of the team.
When Payson Little League was using machines and coaches to pitch, there weren't enough trained and seasoned pitchers to allow a local team to compete successfully in postseason play.
So, the youngest team selected was the 11- and 12-year-old group where pitchers from the playing roster were used during the regular season.
This year a 9- and 10-year-old squad coached by Jim Aguilar will carry the Payson baseball banner to Flagstaff. Like their Major counterparts, the team was selected in a voting of coaches. All-stars include Devin England, Tanner Golliglee, Ridge Halenar, Adam Haught, Hunter Haynes, B.J. Hill, Klay Nelson, Anthony Pearce, Dino Piazza, Tony Piazza, Max Seiverson and Buck Slayman.
Selecting a 9- and 10-year-old star team wasn't Payson's only break with local baseball tradition.
In another twist, Payson will not be sending a Senior Division all-star team to postseason play as the local league has done quite successfully in past years.
According to Dvorak, it's unclear why a team wasn't chosen, but the necessary all-star paperwork from players wasn't returned to league offices.
Some of those Senior players do, however, have the opportunity to continue playing the sport through the summer months.
Payson High baseball coach Ted Pettet has entered a high school-age team in the Arizona Prep Summer League that plays games twice weekly in the Valley and in Payson.
Pettet said, however, he's disappointed that there is no Senior Division all-star team representing Payson.
"That's a great experience ... one kids shouldn't miss," he said.