What Is the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience?
One of the best tournaments for u12 baseball players is Cooperstown Dreams Park in Cooperstown, New York. It provides the opportunity for players age 12 and under to spend a week playing against other teams from all over the United States.
Multiple weekly tournaments begin in June and continue through August. There are approximately 100 teams participating in each one. They compete for a weekly national title. Coaches have the opportunity to choose a week that works best for their team's schedule. There are 11 weeks of regular tournaments. Week 12 is the NATC tournament, a players’ showcase tourney. Week 13 is the culmination of the competitions with the Cooperstown Classic.
Arriving to Cooperstown, NY
Cooperstown is in upstate New York, between Albany and Syracuse. It is approximately 80 miles from both Albany International Airport and from Syracuse Hancock International Airport. Transportation will need to be procured at the airport as it is about a two hour drive to Cooperstown. This time frame is an approximation, but be aware that the speed limits are strictly enforced through this area.
Most families rent a car or van at the airport as their children will be staying at Dreams Park and they will be staying off site. Many of the rental properties are a distance away and games are played at varying times throughout the day. Some families share vehicles while others prefer to have their own.
The advantage of driving to Dreams Park is being able to bring supplies and baseball equipment that your players and family may like to have during their visit. Families that drive can also help those families and coaches that fly by bringing additional baseball bags, fans for the bunkhouse (they are not air conditioned), chairs, practice balls, a cooler for the team, non-perishable food, and cases of water.
The Cooperstown Dreams Park address is 4550 State Highway 28, Milford, New York 13807.
Cooperstown Dreams Park provides each player with a home and away jersey (red for home and navy blue for away), hat, red and navy socks, long and short sleeved mock t-shirts, and a wind breaker jacket. The jerseys have numbers provided by the park, so let your players know that they will probably not have their home team number. Each player must provide their own plain white baseball pants with no stripes and a red and navy blue belt. Players must wear baseball pants at knee length.
Dreams Park also provides each coach with a hat, polo shirt, and windbreaker jacket. Uniform laundry service is provided for the teams.
Hall of Fame Visit
Each player is provided a free ticket to visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a DVD of their team's webcasted game (weather permitting). Each player and coach also receive an American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame tournament ring and each are inducted into the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.
What Should Players Bring to Cooperstown?
- On the Plane: In case of misplaced luggage, it is advised that players carry on the plane a fielder’s mitt, cleats (no metal allowed), sliding pants, cup, red and blue belt, batting gloves (if they use them), and plain white baseball pants. Bats and helmets can always be borrowed from teammates, but players prefer their own personal baseball gear.
- For the bunkhouse: Provide a fitted twin sheet sleeping bag or blanket (most players bring sleeping bags) and a pillow. There is a footlocker for each player. The lock needs to be small and narrow so it fits. Ideally, bring a combination lock so there are no worries about carrying a key. Make sure your player knows the combination and also writes it down for the coach, just in case it's needed.
- Personal items: Bring two or three pairs of plain white baseball pants, an extra pair of baseball socks in navy blue and red (Cooperstown provides only one pair of each; they must be plain and have no logos), a cup, sliding shorts, sunglasses (if they wear them), athletic shoes, sleeping clothes, sweat shirt or hoodie, and a jacket (ideally something that is also waterproof.) Additional items include t-shirts, shorts, a swimsuit (it’s an open shower), two towels (so one is always dry), shoes for the shower, a mesh bag with a drawstring to carry toiletries such as soap (liquid is best), shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant. The mesh bags help keep items dry. It's also helpful if your player has two pairs of baseball cleats. Rain is not unusual in this area. There is a lot of walking involved as well. Make sure the shoes are broken in and comfortable. As of October 2012, there is now a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Oneonta, about 40 minutes from Cooperstown.
- Entertainment: Players can bring books, cards, and electronics such as DVD players and hand held electronic games, phones, etc. Remember to pack chargers for all electronics. It's also important to label everything with your player's name.
Cooperstown Dream Park is equipped with 22 professionally groomed and lighted fields that are enclosed by eight foot high stadium fences. There are enclosed viewing areas along with an open seating area. Plastic chairs are provided, but you can bring in your own as well. Ten of the fields have a web cam and they have daily games webcasted on these fields. Each team has the opportunity to play on one of the webcasted fields during their tournament (weather permitting).
Families and friends can go to the tourney website and sign up to watch games either live or pre-recorded. This gives those who are not in attendance an opportunity to watch the games.
Little Majors Stadium is the main venue at the park. This stadium is used exclusively for the opening ceremony, finals in the skills competitions, the closing ceremony, and the championship game.
This area provides clothing and souvenir shopping, a bat shop, and photography center. They have an abundance of unique souvenirs and the weekly tournament roster t-shirts. You should buy these t-shirts when they first come out early in the week. Once they are gone, they have no more. The bat shop provides a variety of engraved bats.
The photo center gives families an opportunity to view and purchase individual and team pictures. There are formal pictures of the team along with candid pictures taken of individual players during the games throughout the tournament.
Concession Stands and Eating Areas
There are concession stands and outdoor eating areas which open at 8:00 a.m and remain open until the conclusion of the last game. The menu includes more than just hamburgers and hot dogs. They have additional sandwiches and pizza and the prices are fairly reasonable. No coolers are allowed (only team coolers with water and ice) and outside food and beverages are also not permitted.
Checking in the First Week
Families and teams can begin arriving Friday evening. Early check-in is available after 6:00 p.m, but the official check-in is on Saturday morning before 11:00 a.m. This is when most players and coaches find their bunkhouses and when uniforms are distributed. It is very helpful if someone is designated to put names on all individual items with a permanent marker. Each team has their own sleeping quarters. Each building houses 2 teams, separated by a wall.
Parents and families are only allowed in the bunkhouse area to check-in their players and must leave by 11:00. Only players and coaches are allowed in afterwards. This is when many kids do their pin trading, attend a team orientation, and get ready for the opening ceremony.
Families stay nearby, either renting one of the many homes or apartments in the area, or staying in a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast. There are abundant choices for a variety of budgets, needs, and preferences.
Pin trading is great fun for players and families alike. With 100 teams in Cooperstown each week, each player should plan to bring as many pins from their team as they think they would like to trade. Siblings and parents enjoy trading too, so plan accordingly.
Most people attach the pins they collect to a trading towel and carry the ones they want to trade in a separate zip lock bag.
Many families print out the list of teams that will be competing the week they are there, so that they can keep track of which pins they have collected and which ones they still want to obtain.
Later on Saturday, teams assemble for the opening ceremony and the procession of athletes. There are parachute jumpers that drop from the sky and land in Little Majors Stadium. Alphabetically, each team enters the stadium to the cheers of family and friends. It's an amazing procession to see. The teams are dressed in their Cooperstown uniforms of either blue or red and carry their team banner. The national anthem is sung and there are speeches about the tournament and the history of Cooperstown Dreams Park.
The skills competition begins immediately afterwards. It includes King of Swat, Road Runner, Golden Arm, and Around the Horn. All the events happen at the same time and has a representative from each team. They participate in alphabetical order of their team name. The top qualifiers face each other in Little Majors Stadium and a trophy is given to the winner of each event.
Pool Play, Free Time, and Seeding
On Sunday, the pool play games begin. Each team is guaranteed 6 games (weather permitting), and they play at different times (8:30, 11:00, 1:45, 4:30, and 7:00) on different fields. This goes on through Tuesday. They earn a seed spot on that evening, which determines which team they will play on Wednesday.
Players are free to be signed out by their families in their off time to explore Cooperstown. Attractions include a multitude of baseball shops, restaurants, Doubleday Field, and the Baseball Hall of Fame. There are many other free and inexpensive activities around for families to enjoy. There is Lake Ostego, breweries, the Cooperstown and Charlotte Valley Railroad, trolley rides, walking tours of the city, arcades, and miniature golf among other things.
Single Elimination Games
All teams participate in the playoff bracket. These are single elimination games that begin on Wednesday morning at 10:00 a.m. Games follow at 12:00, 3:00, 5:30, and 8:00 p.m. The lower seeded teams play early and the winners advance to the next game. The higher the seed a team is, the later their first game is played. The top 16 teams play on Thursday.
Road to the Championship
Thursday is the culmination of the tournament with the final teams making up the Sweet Sixteen. The games start at 8:30 a.m. The winners move on to the Elite Eight and play at 12:30 p.m. The Final Four play at 3:00 p.m. The top two teams play in the championship game at 9:15 p.m.
Closing Ceremony, Fireworks, and the Championship Game
Prior to the final game, each team participates in the closing ceremony where every player, coach, and umpire is introduced. They all receive a tournament ring and are inducted into the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame. The teams now enter in reverse alphabetical order. This is a long ceremony with everyone being introduced and also includes the closing speeches.
Just before the championship game, the two final teams are introduced, the Star Spangled Banner is sung, and then there is a fireworks display.
This is every 12-year-old baseball player's dream park. It is also so much fun for parents and families as well.
The experience of this tournament will provide players and their families with many treasured memories that will last a lifetime.