EDWARDSVILLE - The Edwardsville Tigers under-12 baseball team will have a glorious opportunity to play in a tournament in the birthplace of baseball, Cooperstown, N.Y., and will play against many of the best youth teams in the United States.

The Tigers will play in the ninth of 16 American Youth Baseball Hall Of Fame Invitational at the Cooperstown Dreams Park, which is a seven-field camp and complex where tournaments are played every week during the summer and dates back to 1999. And the process to enter the tournament series started back in 2020.

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"It's going to be awesome," said Tigers' head coach Matt Kayser. "I'm very, very excited about it. It's a big deal; we had to apply two years ago, and there were about 15,000 teams that apply annually, is what I've heard."

The Tigers will play in the ninth of 16 tournaments scheduled for the complex, which is set for July 16-22. The total number of teams and states the teams are from have not yet been announced, but all 50 states have been represented, along with teams from Canada and the Caribbean nations as well.

"It's exciting," Kayser said. "It's just a really good experience. We've been looking forward to it for a very long time."

In addition, many current Major League Baseball stars have played in the tournament in the past, including Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies, David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays, Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets, Addison Russell, formerly of the Chicago Cubs, now playing in Mexico, Delino DeShields, Jr. and Dansby Swanson of the World Champion Atlanta Braves, Gerritt Cole of the New York Yankees and Trea Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also, current NFL star Odell Beckham, Jr., now of the World Champion Los Angeles Rams, also played in the tournament as a youth.

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The schedule for the tournament will be announced this coming week, and the team will be staying in a cottage, much like a summer camp, for the six nights of the tournament, with organizational meetings and a skill competition taking up the first two days. Games are played the next two days, with a seeding meeting held after the second day. The teams then play a single-elimination tournament the final two days, with the championship game held at 8:15 p.m., St. Louis time, on the final night. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are also provided to the participants throughout their stays.

The biggest thing for Kayser is that seven players who were in last year's World Series between the Braves and Houston Astros played in the tournament as kids, along with stars like Trout and Harper.

"It's really a neat thing," Kayser said.

Games are also live-streamed on the tournament's website. www.cooperstowndreamspark.com, as well as the Cooperstown Dreams app, which is available in the Google Play store for Androids and the App Store for iPhones. The team will also have an opportunity to visit the National Baseball Hall Of Fame and Museum during their stay in Cooperstown.

The players on the team and their families are also very excited about the chance to play and attend a tournament such as this, in a quality atmosphere at the birthplace of the game itself.

"They're a great group of kids and a great group of families," Kayser said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our guys. I couldn't be any prouder of our guys and once we get there, we'll just play ball."

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