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New look for Top Teams tourney
By CAREY FREEMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 2, 2000
As is the case every summer, the official start to the Little League post-season begins with the Top Teams Tournament, which crowns an overall champion from the various league champions in District 15.
However, there will be a couple of changes this summer, both in the format of the event -- which starts Saturday -- and the competitors involved.
For the first time, the Top Teams Tournament will discard the traditional double-elimination format in favor of round-robin games in all but one of the eight divisions.
"Eventually, the Little League World Series is going to a round-robin format," District 15 commissioner Jerry Lowe said. "It's supposed to happen in a couple of years. What it does is it gives everybody more games, so we figured we'd try it and see how we liked it."
So far, the format has received mixed reviews from the various leagues.
"They don't know what to expect yet since they haven't played," Lowe said. "Some like it and some don't. We'll know more once we get into the tournament, but I expect the kids will get used to it pretty quickly."
Naysayers can rest assured that, at least for this year, the experiment will be limited to the Top Teams Tournament. The annual All-Star Tournament, held next month, will retain the double-elimination format.
The Top Teams Tournament also will see some new faces this year as it welcomes back the West Hernando and Kennedy Park (Brooksville) programs after a two-year absence while also bringing in two new leagues in Ocala National and American.
That should result in some fierce competition as both West Hernando and Kennedy Park regularly fielded strong contenders, and Ocala's program was strong enough to warrant a split into National and American leagues.
There is one more change to note, one fueled by the new format and the new teams: The tournament will be held at three sites instead of one central location, which in recent years was Crystal River's Bicentennial Park. This year games are being hosted by the Inverness (Whispering Pines Park), Dunnellon and Crystal River (Bicentennial Park) leagues in an effort to ease scheduling and traveling pressures in a district that encompasses an area from Hudson to Cross City and from Crystal River to Ocala.
"We can't play them all at one site," Lowe said. "There are just too many people. We've got to get finished by a certain date, so we'll need to use more than one field.
"What we try to do is be fair to everybody. We will look to see where the locations are and try to cut down the travel."
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