When Victor Nogueras arrives at the Econo Lodge on Route 1 in Laurelon Monday morning, he will be a long way from his home in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
But as the chaperon for his country's baseball squad, the Young Talent, Nogueras is more than willing to make the trip -- especially one that carries with it the prospects of touring the nation's capital, seeing an Orioles game and, most of all, winning the Continental Amateur Baseball Association 18-and-under World Series.
"Our hotel is supposed to be about 20 minutes from Baltimore and D.C. The boys don't know much about Washington, D.C., and they can't wait to get there," Nogueras said from his home in Caguas.
Tournament director Lew Holmes expects more than 320 teen-agers for the two-week, 16-team CABA tournament, which begins Monday morning at Joe Cannon Stadium in Harmans and will use four other local baseball diamonds.
Nogueras' team is one of two from outside the United States. Besides the Young Talent and the Seoul, South Korea's USFK Baseball Club, the team traveling the farthest is California's Stars. Eleven states will send teams.
"California has a reputation for baseball, andMaryland -- with teams like Dunbar -- has had more of a reputation for its basketball," said Stars coach T. C. Martin. "But Maryland baseball is starting to earn that reputation for having several fine baseball teams. It's a very prestigious tournament."
Holmes said "location" was the determining factor in his winning bid over Youngstown, Ohio, to be host to the tournament.
"This area is dynamite for these kids to come to -- a natural," said Holmes, 53, whose employer of 35 years, Baltimore's CSX Railroad Inc., donated 330 tickets to the July 25 Orioles-California Angels game.
"Youngstown had the tournament for two years in a row," he continued. "But I told (the CABA) about our new, $4 million stadium and that D.C. and Baltimore would be agreat place for these kids. They can visit the nation's capital and the Inner Harbor."
It helped that Holmes signed a contract promising to donate $1,000 toward the housing and meals of each team. Holmeshas been the backbone of the county's baseball programs over the last 10 years, yet he alone cannot cover the estimated $25,000 cost to run the entire tournament.
"I've stuck my neck out on this one, andI'm asking for help. I think there are some people out there who will identify with my motives, that they'll know where I'm coming from and be willing," Holmes said. "So far, about $5,000 has been raised for the tournament through advanced ticket sales and program advertisements, but I have no feel for how many people we'll get to the stadium."
California's Monticello just missed bringing home last year's title, losing in the championship game to Stone Mountain of Georgia. Neither team is in this year's tournament, but Martin has been feelingthe pressure from folks in his hometown of Roseville who believe thetitle belongs on the West Coast.
"Our people want us to show themwhat we've got," he said.
"We're curious about what kind of talent the Puerto Rican and Korean teams will have, but we know that nothing but the best is going to be there."
Nogueras is the only PuertoRican visitor who has been to the District of Columbia area, having been stationed in Virginia as an Army officer a few years back.
The Young Talent will board a four-hour flight to New York City on Sunday evening, shortly after playing for the title in the Puerto Rican Connie Mack League's championship game. From there, the team will takea five-hour bus trip to Laurel.
"We'll get there at about 4:30 or5 a.m., but we won't be tired. The guys will be sleeping on the bus," Nogueras said. "Then, it's a quick shower and breakfast and we're off to the ball park for our 9 a.m. game."
The teams are divided into two divisions.
Division I is made up of teams from Maryland, Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee, Michigan, New Jersey and two teams from Ohio.
Division II includes the local Ferndale American Legion host,the USFK, the Stars, the Young Talent and teams from Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.
After a week of play using the round-robin format, the top four teams in each division will advance into thesecond week of dou
ble-elimination championship playoffs -- whichbegin next Saturday -- and the bottom four teams will play in a similar double-elimination tournament for ninth place.
Maryland's Division I representative will be the winner of Saturday's championship game of a six-team qualifier at Saw Mill Creek. Teams from Pikesville,Reisterstown, Glen Burnie, Fallston, Columbia and the Connie Mack All-Stars are competing in the qualifier.
"Every kid in the (CABA) tournament will get a trophy that is a small, hand-carved replica of the state of Maryland," Holmes said. "Everyone's going to have something to take back with them."