FARMINGTON — When Steve Tricomi, the state Babe Ruth baseball commissioner asked Farmington’s Dave Duley if Franklin County would be interested in hosting the New England 13-15 year old tournament, Duley was surprised.

“My first response was I never thought we could get it,” Duley said.

Farmington had hosted state tournaments at Hippach Field, but never a regional. Tricomi felt Hippach Field was a natural fit, and the old ballpark will be the site for the New England tournament, which runs from July 29 through August 3.

“That community (Farmington) is the definition of community. A lot of people are involved,” Tricomi said. “I like the idea of this community park kind of setting.”

The first game of the tournament is set for 10 a.m. Friday, when Braintree, Mass. takes on Essex, Vt. Franklin County is the host team, while Apple Valley is the Maine state champion. The rest of the field includes teams from Trumbull, Conn., Cranston, R.I., Leominster, Mass., and Manchester, N.H.

The championship game will be Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The winner moves on to the Babe Ruth World Series, which will be Aug. 20-27 in Jamestown, N.Y.

The tournament kicks off with a banquet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Maine at Farmington’s South Dining Hall. The scheduled guest speakers are Edwin Thompson, a former assistant baseball coach at UMF who is now an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Duke, and Roger Spear, a Farmington-area historian.

“(Spear) knows everything about baseball in Maine,” Duley said.

Originally, Tricomi said, Farmington was slated to host the 14-year olds New England tournament, but when Manchester, N.H. had to back out of the 13-15 tourney, Farmington stepped up.

Duley said he leaned in early July, 2010 that Farmington would host the tournament. Preparation for the New England tourney took all of the last year.

The last time Maine hosted the New England 13-15 Babe Ruth tournament was 2007 in Augusta. Duley got plenty of advice from Al Cloutier, one of the Augusta organizers, on how to put on a successful tournament.

The first and most important job was lining up housing for all the players.

“In Augusta, that was the biggest headache,” Duley said.

Babe Ruth dropped the rule that stated all players must stay with a host family, and Duley was able to set up housing in a University of Maine at Farmington dorm, not far from Hippach Field in downtown Farmington.

“They’ve been great to work with,” Duley said of UMF.

Duley put longtime umpire Peter Franchetti in charge of assembling an umpiring crew.

“Peter’s gone out and found some top-notch guys,” Duley said.

Duley and Tricomi hope fans enjoy the classic feel of watching a game at Hippach from the grandstand behind home plate, or from a lawn chair down one of the foul lines.

“Our goal is to recognize it for what (Hippach) is,” Duley said.

Added Tricomi: “I just hope fans have a good experience.”

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

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