Youth baseball group eyes July tournament in Eagle, Vail
America’s past time may be taking center stage in Eagle County this summer if the American Amateur Youth Baseball Alliance’s plans for a large youth tournament come to fruition.
Representatives from the AAYBA have reached out to the communities of Vail and Eagle to host a late July tournament that would feature competition in the U10, U11, 112 and U13 divisions. The younger three divisions would play at both Ford Park in Vail and at the Eagle Fairgrounds Complex while the U13 teams would play exclusively at the Eagle fields. The tournament dates are July 11-17.
Chris Harguth, AAYBA Colorado tournament director, noted that the organization has conducted previous tournaments in the state. The organization is based in Texas and has been in existence since 1989. Harguth said the facilities in Eagle and Vail are perfect for a large youth baseball tournament and the timing and location makes this valley a perfect fit for families who are planning a baseball tournament vacation.
With that said, he also noted that this summer’s event would be a first-ever tournament so organizers have to build it up from scratch. That means he hopes to generate interest from some local teams as well as teams from throughout the western United States.
“A sell out of tournament spots would be 30 per age group. We are hoping to have 15 teams in each age group for the tournament,” he said.
Right now, three teams from Texas have committed to play in the valley and in the weeks ahead, AAYBA hopes to fill out its “Who’s Coming” list on the tournament website. That seems like an attainable goal, considering there are 600 teams expected at the AAYBA World Series tournament planned in Texas this year.
But attracting local competitors is key to the tournament’s success. “We cant’ pull this off alone. We need the support of the teams up there,” said Harguth.
No “The Show”
Local residents may view the AAYBA tournament plan with a degree of skepticism, considering their experiences with the last large scale youth baseball event planned for the valley. A couple of years ago, a program called “The Show” proposed a large youth tournament that failed to materialize at the last minute.
Harguth said he was aware of the situation surrounding The Show’s no show. He noted that it was related to various legal issues and said the AAYBA program is in a different situation. The group has been advertizing the local tournament nationally and hopes that players and families will be attracted to the idea of playing in the dry, cool mountain air.
“Why not bring the teams to the mountains to play. That’s where people want to be,” said Harguth.
AAYBA tournaments are organized to include initial pool play followed by bracket play. What that means for players is a guarantee of six to seven games at a minimum.
Harguth also noted that the tournament structure means all star teams from large metro areas are grouped together for bracket play. That means teams from smaller communities aren’t mercilessly crushed by bigger squads.
The tournament will not be a qualifier for Little League World Series play, but it will provide competitive teams with an outlet as well as providing play opportunities for other squads. The tournament has been scheduled so that it will not conflict with other events.
According to Harguth, the next big threshold for the tournament to happen is to attract a number of local area teams to compete. The entry fee is $695 per team.
“This is the first year and it is difficult to get it started,” said Harguth. “But the best baseball analogy I can offer is ‘If you build it, they will come.’ That’s what we are hoping will happen.”
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