State baseball tournament returning to De Soto
"Play ball," will be a frequently heard cry in De Soto the second weekend of this month.
Thanks to a successful state tournament last year, at least 20 to 30 youth baseball teams are expected to commute to De Soto July 9 to 11 for the opportunity to play in the 2004 United States Speciality Sports Association Kansas A State Baseball Tournament.
The teams, which will arrive from places like St. Louis, Wichita, Topeka, Kansas City and all places in between, will take the fields in 8-, 11- and 12- year-old age divisions.
The 8-and-under teams will play their games at Miller Park, while the 11- and 12-year-old squads will compete for their trophies at the Sunflower Baseball Fields.
The success of last year's tournament played a key role in De Soto landing the tournament for the second year in a row, Kansas City Sports Association representative Wally Fortuna said. If he has anything to say about it, De Soto will continue to be the host of the tournament for years to come.
"They did a great job with it last year," Fortuna said of the De Soto Youth Baseball Association. "Plus they are close enough that they are pretty much drawing all of the teams out of Kansas City."
Tournament organizer Michelle England of the DYBA agreed the organization received many compliments from the teams in last year's tournament.
"In fact, many of them couldn't believe it was our first year running the tournament," she said. "Many of the teams said they were coming back again this year."
It appears those same teams are sticking to their word, too. England said she had fielded many calls since April from teams inquiring about playing in the tournament and what they may need to do to sign up.
England said, however, that it was difficult for the "A" teams to find a tournament of this caliber to play in, and that may have also been a factor in De Soto getting the nod.
"They said if we wanted to hold the tournament again, we could," England said. "It's hard to find a tournament for the kids that play A ball because most of the tournaments are for AA teams and up."
Fortuna said the reason finding "A" tournaments was so difficult, was because most of these teams come from smaller communities and have a difficult time competing with some of the other teams.
"Plus this caliber of teams don't usually have the budget to compete with some of the other teams," he said.
Fortuna said that once a community landed a tournament like this and did a good job running it, the association usually kept the tournament in that community.
He said the exception might be when an A tournament outgrew the facilities a community had to offer.
"I have no intentions of taking the tournament away from De Soto, however," Fortuna said.
With last year being the first year for the event, England said she and the rest of the DYBA members weren't sure what to expect. But this year she vowed they would be more organized.
"We didn't know how to prepare," she said. "So this year we've already started ordering the food and drinks for the concession stands and lining our people up to help in various areas, whereas last year we waited until the week of (the tournament)."
England said she was excited the De Soto community was again given the opportunity to play host to the tournament.
"Hometown baseball is here in De Soto," she said. "The people of De Soto won't have to travel far to attend these games. I'm not saying that 3 and 2 is far from here, but they can stay right here."
Fortuna said the teams participating in the tournament's weekend festivities wouldn't have the opportunity to advance on to a national tournament like the other divisions do. So this is a big deal for those players.
"When you're 8 years old, all you know is that you're playing baseball," he said. "We want to make sure those kids are able to hold on to