Rocky Kern is doing his best to keep a singular focus on the District 13 tournament, but there is only so much he can do.
He can't confiscate DVDs, erase DVRs or go all Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception" and plant ideas within the dreams of the players on the Ahwatukee Little League Majors roster.
With this age group the Little League World Series is always hovering like a chaperone on a first date and no matter how that date with destiny is going the thought of Williamsport, Pa., is always prevalent.
"I have talked to them about the single goal of making the semifinals of the district tournament," said Kern, manager of the ALL Majors. "That is our focus. Truth is, I don't think Ahwatukee (Little League) has made it out of districts since 2006 so we can't get ahead of ourselves, but it is hard.
"They have last year's Little League World Series on DVD and they get together to watch it. It's good to have that as a goal, but we have to know there is a lot of work to do before and that can be something we can really think about."
The road to Williamsport starts Wednesday night.
It begins with the District 13 Tournament's Opening Ceremonies at 6 p.m. at Tempe Sports Complex, followed by the ALL Major's first game of the tournament at 7:15 p.m. against Chandler American.
The Majors tournament, which is for 12 year olds, goes until July 14 with the champion heading to north regionals in Flagstaff. From there, it is on to Tucson for the state champion and a berth to West Regionals in San Bernardino, Calif., which is one step away from the LLWS.
Clearly a lot has to come together to make such a journey and it starts with bonding these all-stars who have been together only since mid-June.
Part of being an elite player is being able to adapt quickly to any situation.
"We have to bond as a team and we've been doing that," third baseman Logan White said. "We've had everyone over to my house to use our batting cage and have some fun."
The Majors receive the most attention but the ALL also has teams in the 11-year-old and 9- to 10-year-old tournaments as well.
Former major league pitcher Joel Adamson, manager of the 11s, said getting the team chemistry is essential to success.
"It's about picking each other up, just hearing, ‘Get 'em next time,' from a teammate when they are down goes a long way," Adamson said. "If you can play as a team and give 110 percent then you have a chance. If those things don't come together pretty quickly it makes it tough."
Adamson's team went to Tuesday's Diamondbacks against the Cleveland Indians to help with the bonding process.
"We need to reward them for all of the hard work they've been doing, go have some fun and see how the big guys do it," Adamson said.
The Majors have a good mix of players, who were on last year's 11-year-old squad, some players from the same (Sandlot) club team and new faces, many of whom are new to Little League after playing Pony League in previous years.
"I switched leagues because I wanted a chance to go to the Little League World Series," said infielder Brock Burton, who played in the Pony League last season. "I remember seeing other teams from Arizona make it and I wanted to be part of it."
Kern said the transition has gone pretty well, but that he won't know for sure until the games are played.
"We have a lot of athletes," Kern said. "We are going to put pressure on the opposition with the speed we have. The thing we have been talking to them about is pitching and defense. Our offense, I think, will take care of itself, so if we can match that with good pitching and defense we have a shot at making the semifinals and from there anything can happen."
The ALL Majors never got that chance last year as five of the six teams went 4-2 in round-robin action, meaning the four teams in the semifinals advanced on tiebreakers and the team left out was ALL.
"We are focused on this first tournament," said shortstop Jaydon Brooks, who also played Pony in previous years. "If we don't play good there then we won't have a chance to go anywhere else and we all want to keep playing all summer."
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