'The Big One' lives up to nickname

The Dallas Invitational baseball tournament draws a field of 32 teams.

DALLAS -- The Dallas Invitational baseball tournament carries a nickname of "The Big One."

The tourney did everything to live up to that title this past weekend as a record 32 teams battled for little league honors in three different divisions.

Dallas had teams in all three divisions -- 12A, 12B and 10-under. Central had teams in the 12A and 10-under brackets. Dallas and Central cohosted the event and games were played at Strader Complex and the field at Monmouth Elementary.

"This is our usual end-of-June tournament," organizer John Strader said. "We have it pretty much every year. The way it's set up now is that people call me trying to get in. They all wanted to get in. We had to turn away about seven or eight teams this year.

"We used to have 22 or 23 teams when we were just doing it at the complex. Now that Central has got their field built, we were able to add extra teams."

There were four brackets in the 12A division and three apiece in the 12B and 10-under. Teams first played within their own bracket and then played their counterparts from the other brackets.

The tournament started at 6 p.m. on June 25, and the last games wrapped up about 8:30 p.m. on June 29. A total of 64 games were played in temperatures that ranged from comfortably mild to pretty darn hot.

Teams traveled to the tournament from as far away as Coos Bay, Astoria, Seaside and Portland.

"That was a lot of people coming through here and a lot of people in town," Strader said. "It was a good fund raiser for the league. It should have been a pretty good boost to the economy with all these people coming through here."

Strader said many teams eagerly return to the event year after year.

"I think it's mainly the quality of the complex," Strader said. "People are always saying that. They just like coming here and playing. A lot of them playing on dart infields, rec fields. They like to come play at a place with three grass infields and mounds. It makes a huge difference to them."

So, too, so the efforts of volunteer umpires Gerry Heffner, Mike Heinrich, Mitch Cheselka, Al Champ and Mark Waldron, who work for nothing more than a soda and a hot dog.

"We have pretty high-quality umpires," Strader said. "They're all men. We don't have kids out there doing it. We had a group of about six or seven who were out there the whole weekend for those kids. Paid umpires are very expensive. We enjoyed having those guys out there. It makes a difference."

The Dallas 12A team finished third overall, winning three of four games. Dallas split its two pool games, losing 8-4 to the Salem Dodgers and beating Seaside 10-7.

Dallas closed with a 12-4 win against Central and a 5-3 defeat of the Salem Wolves.

Dallas' other two teams both went 2-2 in tournament play.

Cedar Mill won the 10-under title, nudging Newberg 8-3 in the championship game. Lower Columbia beat Newberg 6-3 for the 12A crown.

Former Portland Trailblazer Mychal Thompson attended the tournament to take in the exploits of son Trayce Thompson.

"It's amazing how intense these tournaments can get," Strader said. "It's become a pretty high-quality tournament. There is some very good baseball being played. The games are scheduled every two hours, but a lot of time they're over in an 1:30 or 1:45. Playing six innings in that amount of time -- that's good baseball.

"A lot of these teams are gearing up for state and district tournaments. Dallas now has one of the most competitive tournaments in the state. They're standing in line to get into it. That tells you it's a high-quality tournament."


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