The city and citizens of Garden City should be very proud of their community after hosting the Midwest Plains Regional Babe Ruth Tournament Aug. 2 through 7. The host team along with another Kansas team and six other teams from surrounding states plus a team from Regina, Saskatoon, Canada, converged on Garden City to participate in a tournament for players aged 13 and 14. Many people in Garden City opened their homes to the incoming players and many great memories and lifelong relationships were forged for both the host families and the participating players.
I was privileged to serve on the task force for the tournament with Assistant State Commissioners Chad Knight and Kerwin Spencer, the very able tournament director Jared Rutti and his assistant Lacy Fisher. Superintendent John Washington and Rutti of the Garden City Recreation Commission did a splendid job in organizing the tournament, ensuring that everything was in place and the Clint Lightner Field ready for play. Mr. Washington "wore many hats" as he grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for all the players at a remarkable picnic at the beautiful, serene Stevens Park. He was assisted by staff members of the recreation commission.
Opening ceremonies were special for all involved as all players and coaches were presented with a certificate commemorating their participation in the Regional Tournament. The opening was highlighted by Garden City's own Todd Tichenor, Major League umpire, as he was honored in the "first pitch ceremony." Todd also spoke to the players and fans as well as the Garden City team as they prepared for the last game of the day. Opening ceremonies were also made special by beautiful renditions of "The Star Spangled Banner" by John Washington and "Oh, Canada" by a young Canadian girl named Emily Erick.
The ground crew did a miraculous job of working to prepare the field for play after several rains. Individuals deserving recognition are Brian Knight, Tim Nelson, Brett Nelson, Junior Romo, Jacinto Carrillo and Jared Standley. Chris Finnegan, Garden City Community College baseball coach, also helped prepare the field, as did Camden Knight, Chad Knight and Roni Knight. The games could not have been played without their extreme efforts.
Fans who witnessed the tournament were treated to some exceptional games and a lot of baseball talent. Spring River of Baxter Springs defeated Hi-Tower, Minnesota to earn the privilege of representing the Midwest Plains Region at the World Series in Moses Lake, Wash.
The tournament was not just a multitude of ball games, but a "community event" that involved many people determined to make it a special and memorable event for all involved. Garden City has a long history of hosting first-class tournaments and this was no exception. Thank you, Garden City, for a wonderful six days of hospitality and for opening our community for these young players. A big thank you also to The Garden City Telegram for their coverage prior to and during the tournament. We all look forward to returning to Garden City for a future tournament — maybe a World Series. Now that would really be awesome.
Willis is commissioner of the Kansas Babe Ruth Leagues Inc., Midwest Plains Regional Task Force.