Despite the scorching heat, one of the state’s biggest sporting events of the year is taking place this week. The Little League World Series, East Regional qualifiers are being held in Bristol.
Little League champions from around the northeast gathered at the A. Bartlett Giamatti Little League Training Center in a showdown tournament to decide who will go to the Little League World Series finals.
These players are used to facing curveballs, but this week’s weather could be throwing them one they’d rather not see. For these teams to make it the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, they will have to overcome another obstacle - scorching heat.
Fairfield is representing Connecticut. A red-hot team that is now competing in sizzling temperatures.
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“The boys have been drinking Pedialyte, Gatorade, water. Just keeping hydrated the best we can do,” said Fairfield manager Matt Lawlor.
Heat is a factor this week and health officials will be watching it closely.
“My concerns are always for any kind of heat illness [specifically] dehydration, heat exhaustion,” said athletic trainer Chris Weaving.
Weaving is on site. She and others will be watching the players for signs of illness. It’s not just the players but also the fans - some of whom were overwhelmed by the heat.
“Yesterday a couple of people overheated, so we had to send them via ambulance,” said nurse Kathy Madden.
Workers at the Bristol complex are also in the heat. Inside the concession stand, french fries and hot dogs are being churned out amidst broiling temperatures.
“Back here by the grill and fryer, it’s about 130 degrees,” Lori Bullock said.
On the field, the umpires are fully clothed, wearing a chest protector and mask with few breaks along the way.
“We have a towel, and we have cold water in between innings but that’s about the best you can do,” said umpire coordinator Dave Kudej.
The only thing hotter than the temperature in Bristol is the competition. Winning this week’s tournament means a trip of a lifetime to Williamsport - something these coaches know could be on players’ minds despite potential heat-related issues.
“For them to come out of a game, they might not be willing to admit it,” said Team New York Manager Roland Clark.
With that, responsibility falls on the adults, who say they're ready to intervene if necessary.
“If a kid needs to come out of the game, then we'll take them out of the game,” Lawlor said. “That’s why we carry 13 guys and we’ll put someone else in if we have to.”
The good news is heat was not as big of a factor as it could’ve been Monday. Thunderstorms halted the game in the third inning, giving both Connecticut and New York a lengthy mid-game break.