Toms River baseball team winsToms River National of New Jersey's road to the Little League World Series was paved with hard work, clutch play -- and plenty of support at home. Larry Ciervo, whose, son, Jeff, plays on the squad, estimated he spent $2,000 alone on lodging and food during the team's recent ten-day trip to Bristol, Conn., for the Mid-Atlantic Regional. By the time the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., is over, the tab will likely spill over $3,000. "I try not to add the numbers and think about that," Ciervo said. "It's definitely a financial commitment once you start traveling and adding up hotels and dinner. It definitely affects you there."

Toms River opens the Little League World Series on Saturday, August 21 against Hamilton, Ohio, leading off what could be a stay until Aug. 29, the day of the championship game. Little League began covering the transportation, sleeping quarters and food for the players from the moment Toms River qualified, Ciervo said. A bus took the team Tuesday morning to South Williamsport after Toms River defeated Council Rock-Newtown, Pa., 8-5, in the regional title game on Monday.

But there is often no relief for those who train and cheer their offspring to the elite level. Ciervo's commitment to his son underscores what parents face in trying to shepherd their kids through competition in trying times. Many routinely spend thousands of dollars, sacrificing job hours and a significant chunk of income, according to a report. A 44-year-old self-employed home renovation specialist, Ciervo served as a coach during the regular season. He figures he attended 100 practices, 18 regular season games, four intraleague playoff games, and then all 24 of the All-Star postseason games that got Toms River to the Little League World Series.

"At this point I've lost a lot of work over this," Ciervo said." If I have to go to credit cards, I'll go to credit cards."

Little League touted itself as the "affordable choice" for millions of youngsters in an article it published last year, but conceded that once players join the all-star travel teams, costs can run into the hundreds of dollars for parents. That seems to be low-balling figures a bit. Little League spokesman Steve Barr declined comment.

Ciervo said he has no regrets. It's just the hard-hitting reality. "The kid is into it, so you do it," he said. The payoff came when Jeff was the winning pitcher and drove in the go-ahead run in the clinching regional victory. Now he and his teammates will have a chance to play in front of 40,000 fans at Lamade Stadium and a national TV audience on ESPN.

Tough for a dad to put a price on that. Ciervo said he heard that Toms River businesses were going to help out with the traveling costs, but he didn't have details. He'll be there no matter what. Besides, he has other obligations. He's been serving the players his homemade deer jerky before every game, and it has become a superstition.

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