Everyone who visits Cooperstown, New York, gets the opportunity to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
However, not everyone gets to play the game of baseball while there.
The Midnight Suns 12U and over 100 other teams from around the country will get to do both for the weeklong Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament starting Sunday. The Suns play the New England Blazers in the morning and Team Hoyle (Florida) in the evening. The Juneau team plays four more games against four other states the following two days before the single-elimination portion of the tournament begins.
Coach Jason Hart, whose son Liam plays on the team, said the team members have been with Midnight Suns for about five years.
“This is kind of the culmination of all that work to go back there and experience this,” Hart said. “We’ll put a good product on the field and see how it goes.”
The tournament series takes up the entire summer, beginning during the first week of June and wrapping up at the end of August. The Suns are taking part in the Week 5 tournament (Week 12 is the final tournament).
Dubbed the “Crown Jewel of Youth Baseball,” the Cooperstown Dreams Park is a 165-acre baseball village with 22 baseball stadiums and over 100 clubhouses. All players and coaches receive Dreams Park uniforms and are guests at the hall of fame, just a 15-minute drive from the park.
“It’s an expense but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so that’s why most of the parents are having their kids go or letting them go,” Hart said.
The 12 players that make up the team won’t be the first from Juneau to attend the event. According to manager Jeremy Ludeman, several players took part in the tournament in 2014 and 2015 on teams comprised of players from Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks. Ludeman said the Alaska teams, which his son Christian played on, went 7-2 in 2014 and 4-4 in 2015. Ludeman, who’s now coaching his son Kasen, said the tournament’s organization allows teams to focus solely on playing baseball.
“The best part of the experience is getting to play in the home of baseball and to be able to go out and play on some beautiful fields and have a lot of those distracting factors taken out so you can just play the game of baseball,” he said.
• Contact sports reporter Nolin Ainsworth at 523-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Empire Sports on Twitter at @akempiresports.