Andover baseball fans are used to turning on NESN to watch their favorite baseball team, the Boston Red Sox. On Aug. 9 and 10, they'll be able to turn on NESN and see some other hometown baseball heroes.
The Andover National All-Stars Little League team - known as the Nationals - has won the state championship and will head to Bristol, Conn. today, Thursday, to play in the New England Region tournament against the best team from each of the other New England states. At least two Andover games will be televised on NESN. If the team makes the semifinals, that game will also be on NESN, with a championship game on ESPN2.
Here are some statistics, showing the dominance in this state of the Andover Nationals, a team that:
Scored 154 runs in its first 13 tournament games, before doubling up on Massachusetts other three best teams in the state final four.
Scored 61 runs in four sectional games, a record, before adding another 34 runs while sweeping the state final four.
Beat every team in the sectionals by the "mercy" rule, forcing games to end once one team gets a 10-run lead.
This team is sparking memories of the 1988 Andover Little League squad that made the trip to Williamsport for the Little League World Series and went on a run that took them as far as the U.S. semifinals.
The current Andover players are hoping to follow in that team's footsteps and in the footsteps of major leaguers such as Red Sox captain Jason Varitek, who played in the 1984 Little League World Series. (As an aside, Varitek is one of only two people to ever participate in the Little League World Series, College World Series and Major League World Series.) Either way, they'll already have joined Varitek in having their hits, catches and slides beamed into Andover homes.
We expect many Andover residents will join the team in Bristol, Conn. for some of the games. We hear Connecticut is lovely this time of year. Memories are being made.
But for those who can't manage that, a send-off ceremony for the current team and coaches has been planned for this Thursday morning from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m. on the steps of the Town Offices, 36 Bartlet St. The town will be able to give the team a big cheer as its bus heads off.
We wish the best to the coaches and to young players Nate Abbott, Sam Conte, Jack Finn, Dan Gemmell, Cedric Gillette, Timmy Kalantzako, Nathan O'Neil, Scott Perry, Michael Reilly, Andrew Selima, Daniel Walsh, Charlie Ziegenbein, Ryan Lattanzio and Ryan Flanagan.
We hope each of them enjoys the ride.
Tax holiday not long enough
During the weekend of Aug. 13-14, shoppers will be spared the state's 6.25-percent tax on any items priced at up to $2,500. There will always be naysayers, claiming the state cannot afford to forego $20 million in tax revenue. Thankfully, however, the bill passed the entire House by a vote of 123-23. The Senate approved it 28-9.
Lost in this now annual debate is a basic fact: a two-day sales holiday doesn't make a dent in the damage that was done when the legislature boosted the state sales tax by a full 25 percent in 2009, at the virtual peak of the recession. If consumers can no longer afford to shop in Massachusetts, more businesses will have to close their doors and/or move out of state, costing more and more jobs. And that means there will be fewer taxpayers to pump tax dollars into the state's coffers.
Tax holiday? How about a permanent vacation from 6.25 percent?
It's time lawmakers recognized this consumer tax break, while welcome in today's environment, doesn't go nearly far enough. It was disappointing to learn that, while at least backing the Aug. 13-14 "holidays," the House this week turned thumbs down on amendments that would have made these days a guaranteed annual event and, more significantly, scaled the sales tax back to its previous 5-percent mark over the next two years. Both Andover representatives supported the tax rollbacks.