Not yet teenagers, a group of local youth baseball players will get a taste of what it's like to be in the big leagues this weekend.
All-star teams from Greater Naples and North Naples little leagues hit the road Saturday for the start of their respective section tournaments. After winning district titles, the teams head to Venice to vie for the Section 6 crowns and spots in the state finals.
Greater Naples plays in the 9- and 10-year-old tournament, while North Naples is in the 10-11 field. While a road trip, complete with hotel stays and team meals, might be a new experience, coaches say it shouldn't be a distraction.
"My kids are set to go up there and play hard," said Rick Pearce, manager of the Greater Naples 9-10s. "They know exactly what we're going up there for. They're ready to go."
Two area softball teams also will compete for section championships this weekend, but they won't have nearly as far to travel. The Naples Rockets and Naples Queens, both part of the Naples Girls Softball Little League, play in their respective Section 6 tournaments at Cambier Park.
The Greater Naples 9-10s might be ready to go, but they'll have their work cut out for them Saturday. The all-stars open section play against a South Fort Myers team that dominated District 9.
The South all-stars went undefeated through the district tournament and outscored opponents 68-26 in five games.
North Naples also figures to face stiff competition in Venice. The 10-11 all-stars are hoping to ride a wave of momentum generated from the powerful push they used to win the District 27 title.
After losing the first two games of district play by a combined 19-0, North Naples outscored its final three opponents 27-3 to move on to section.
Coach John Pearce said most of his North Naples players were on the 9-10 team that breezed through districts last year, and might have been a little overconfident. Losing 15-0 in its first district game shocked the team back to reality.
"When you take a loss like that it makes you wake up and realize it's not as easy as it seems," John Pearce said. "Sometimes you have to lose a game first."
The Greater Naples 9-10s and North Naples 10-11s will be in four-team tournaments. Each team plays the other three once, and the team with the best record moves on to state.
The Naples softball teams play in three-team fields, but that won't make it any easier. Once you get to the section tournament, coaches say, every game is hard.
"All three of us are very well-balanced," said Queens coach Robert Iamurri about the Little League section. "Everybody has a good defense, so whoever has the off inning ends up losing the game. It could end up where everybody is 1-1."
If that happens, the section champ is determined by a tiebreaker. The team that allowed the fewest runs in its two games, then, would move on.
The Queens face Cape Coral and Lehigh in the 11-12 section. The Rockets play Fort Myers American and Bonita Springs in the 9-10 section.