CHANNAHON —For years, seemingly forever, the Bronco North Zone Tournament has been a summer youth baseball fixture for 12-year-olds at St. Joseph Park.
This year, however, is different. The tournament will not be held its traditional stomping grounds. Instead, Channahon will take up the local banner and host the tournament, which involves eight teams from throughout the Midwest and sends the winner to the World Series in Los Alamitos, Calif.
"St. Joe's decided they didn't want to host it any more," said Channahon tournament director Trevor Markee. "So, we decided to throw our hats in the ring, and we got it.
"We are very excited to have it. We have put about $10,000 worth of work into our field in the last few years and it will be nice to show it off."
The park, located on South Tryon Street in Channahon, just south of Pioneer Path School on Route 6, has new brick dugouts and backstop, as well as a press box and concession stand.
The tournament begins at 10 a.m. Thursday, with games also starting at 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The same schedule follows on Friday and Saturday.
Channahon, as the host team, earned an automatic entry into the tourney and will play in the Red Pool at 5:30 Thursday against a team from Michigan, 5:30 Friday against Kankakee and 10 a.m. Saturday against McCutcheon, Ind.
The other pool, the Blue, consists of teams from Berwyn; Davenport, Iowa; Lafayette, Ind., and Kankakee.
The top two teams in each pool advance to Sunday's semifinals. The winner of the Red Pool plays Blue runner-up at 10 a.m., with the Blue winner playing the Red runner-up at 12:30. The title game is at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"We don't have lights at the Channahon field," Markee said. "That's why the start times are a little earlier than they were at St. Joe's in the past. We can't play the night games that they did.
"Still, we hope to have a good local crowd show up. Our kids have a real good shot in this one. They won the New Lenox Tournament they were in earlier this season and held their own when they went out to Cooperstown.
"If these kids play like they know how, they have a good shot. There would be nothing like winning it on your home field. We hope to have some sort of home-field advantage. One thing is for sure. This is going to be some good baseball. Whichever team makes it out of here will have earned that trip to California."