Need for state youth baseball tourney glaring

Jun 27, 2017 By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

As local youth baseball regular seasons wind down all across Wyoming, and traveling club teams in other communities ramp up their schedule of weekend tournaments, Riverton's local Little Leagues and Babe Ruth league will prepare for their respective all-star tournaments.

But isn't it odd that, in youth baseball in Wyoming, there is not an opportunity to crown a true state champion?

Unlike soccer, hockey, swimming, wrestling and perhaps other youth sports, baseball in Wyoming, with its many diverse leagues and organizational structures, has not created a true state tournament structure for youth teams.

High school wrestling does it best each year when Riverton High School hosts the annual Ron Thon all-class wrestling tournament. All schools, from all towns large and small, gather, mid-season, to determine Wyoming's top wrestler in every weight class.

Imagine a Ron Thon-like baseball tournament, open to every youth team regardless of league charter.

Those of us who grew up playing and then coaching in Little League and Babe Ruth baseball knew that even after winning state championships, there were teams from Casper, or Cheyenne, or other communities that didn't play in that specific tournament.

Last year, Riverton's Babe Ruth teams won championships, but they did so by playing just a team or two because other Wyoming towns were competing elsewhere, in other leagues, or traveling to other tournaments.

Think of the opportunity for a community to host a tournament with a focus on baseball players 14-years old and younger (because many 15-year old players are now playing in their community's respective American Legion programs).

Two state tournaments could be organized, one for under-14 teams and one for under-12 teams immediately before the July 4 holiday. In Fremont County, there are four Babe Ruth-sized fields available, including Riverton's Babe Ruth Park, Lander's City Park field, Roy Peck Field and Hudson's field (needs some work, but could be great). There are at least six Little League-sized fields in the county for under-12 play.

Friday and Saturday could be pool-play games, with single-elimination bracket play on a Sunday championship day. In traveling baseball tournaments played elsewhere, teams often are allowed to play three (or more) games in a day with strict time limits imposed.

It's likely there will be a Wyoming community that will create a state youth baseball tournament structure of some type soon.

Why can't it be us?

It would take enthusiasm, organization, marketing and prize (think dollars) support, but it would be a boon to the economy at a time when we need it.

After such a state-championship weekend, local teams could resume all-star preparation and continue playing in their respective league-chartered tournaments.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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