The next stop on the magical ride by the Holbook 12U Little League team is Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
The city of just under 30,000 people is situated in north central Pennsylvania is famous for serving as the host to the Little League World Series every August. This year’s Little League World Series will begin on Aug. 17 and run through Aug. 24. Games are televised nationally on ESPN networks.
Holbrook is the first team from New Jersey to play in this prestigious event since a team from Parsippany advanced to the World Series in 2012. That Par-Troy East team was eliminated in the first round.
New Jersey experienced a championship when Toms River captured the 1998 World Series with a victory over Japan in the title game.
Holbrook, the Mid-Atlantic Regional champion, will open play on Aug. 17 at 3 p.m. against the Eastern Regional winner, New England. The teams were introduced when both shared the bus ride to Williamsport on Aug. 13.
Holbrook assistant coach Jim Ozmond explained the details of how quickly the regional winners had to rush off to Williamsport. The team from Jackson won the regional on Aug. 12 when it defeated Thurmont of Maryland, 8-3, in Bristol, Connecticut.
“We didn’t know that they don’t let you go home after you win,” Ozmond said. “We won at about 9, 10 o’clock [on Aug. 12]. Then after the media sessions, it was about 11. We celebrated as a team, then went to bed. We had to get on the bus at 7 in the morning [on Aug. 13]. The parents said goodbye and went home, and we went straight to Williamsport. So we haven’t even had time to really process this yet. Once we get down there, we’ll get right to business.”
The coach admired the team’s attitude on the ride.
“Right now, they are just kids on a school bus,” Ozmond said. “They are just living it up, eating snacks and drinking Gatorade on the bus. I imagine once we get there, the nerves will sink in.”
Holbrook boarded the bus after a dominated effort in Bristol.
The Jackson team opened the regional with a 16-6 victory over Washington, D.C., on Aug. 6, followed by a 9-0 victory over Plainview of New York on Aug. 7. Holbrook continued with a 10-6 decision against Pennsylvania before claiming the title with its victory over Maryland on Aug. 12.
Ozmond is confident in his team’s chances.
“The depth of our team is our biggest strength,” Ozmond said. “We have 13 players, and they are all strong, smart and confident guys. We have a deep pitching rotation with a lot of depth. Once you get to this stage, you can’t let up. We have to keep the pressure up all the time.”
Ozmond also acknowledged that the depth could work against the team.
“We have 13 strong players, and we want every kid to have adequate playing time,” Ozmond said. “Every kid on our team deserves to be a part of this, but you can only have nine guys play at a time. So that’s our biggest concern right now.”
Ozmond hopes that the team can be successful, but more importantly, he and the staff desires that its players cherish the moment.
“There’s a lifelong bond that goes with this experience,” Ozmond said. “I hope 20 years from now, they all have a reunion and bring their wives and kids to celebrate this anniversary. This is the kind of experience that makes them brothers for life.”