Getting to any level of Little League World Series action takes a special group of players and coaches.
To make it to three straight World Series tournaments is an incredible accomplishment, and perhaps sounds a little far-fetched. But that's right where the Danville Little League Intermediate All-Stars (better known as the Danville Aces) have found themselves.
The local team captured the District 57 title again this year, and with nearby Livermore hosting the Little League Intermediate World Series, Danville will make its third trip in a row to the series as the host district's representative.
The tournament starts this Sunday and runs through Aug. 6 at Max Baer Park in Livermore.
Both the United States Championship and the International Championship, as well as the World Series Championship game on Aug. 6, will be telecast on ESPN. Danville opens play on July 30 at 6 p.m. against the East representative from the United States.
The players have changed each year -- each team has aged out -- but the coaching staff has stayed the same. That gives Danville, if not an edge, at least a step-up on most other teams.
"I do think it is easier as a coach," Danville skipper Jim Grant said. "Heading in, you know what kind of team you need to get there, and then when you are there, you have a better idea how to prepare them."
The Aces did have an easier road to the tournament by just having to win their district tournament -- a fact they readily admit -- and it's something Grant and his coaches re-enforce with their team.
"It's a very difficult thing for the kids to understand," Grant said. "They think they are good because they qualified, but they don't get that it's one district against teams that have qualified from regions, states or countries. The best pitcher we have faced so far would probably be the worst pitcher for these teams."
That doesn't mean Danville can't compete. In 2015, the team lost 8-7 to the East representative from New York in the first game, then came back with a 10-8 win the Central representative from Minnesota in their second game. Their tournament ended with another one-run loss to New York, but the appearance set the stage for the next year.
Danville came out and won its first two games last year, getting one step from the U.S. Championship game before falling to a team from Florida and then to the eventual World Series winners from Hawaii.
The coaches have stored away the lessons from their first two trips and have imparted their wisdom to this year's team.
"The toughest thing we have to do is prepare them for the expectation of what it will be like to take the field in front of 3,000 to 4,000 people," said Grant, who noted there was 400 or so people at the district title game this year. "Most of these other teams have already played in front of crowds that big."
Instead of changing their approach because the stakes have increased, Grant and his staff keep it simple.
"There are four basic things we tell the kids," he said. "Throw strikes, play catch, have a good mental approach at the plate and run the bases. Our deal is to score one run per inning and if we score seven runs, we deserve to win."
What making the tournament for three straight years has done is galvanize the Danville community in supporting the team.
"The kids and the community are getting a chance to see what the experience is all about," Grant said. "We have five families where little brothers of former players are now playing with us."
The roster for the Danville team: James Murray, Ty Claussen, Tyler Afdahl, Tyler Wood, Andrew Gaskell, Evan Balingit, Calvin Chang, Cole Boscia, Noah Garcia, Matthew Abbes, Tyler Beach, Blake Alameda and Chris White.
For more information or updated bracket information, go to www.intermediateworldseries.org.
* Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact Miller or submit local high school sports scores, game highlights and photographs for his weekly Pleasanton Preps column, email him at email@example.com.