If you happen to notice a large increase in young baseball players walking around the Crystal Lake area in the coming weeks, don’t be alarmed.
Baseball uniforms are just one of the many signs that one of the area's biggest youth baseball tournaments, the McHenry County Youth Sports Association Summer International Championships, is again making its return.
The tournament, which is best known for its inclusion of teams from outside the United States, is celebrating it’s 22nd year with the hopes of continuing to provide great baseball and entertainment for the area.
“The popularity of the tournament is still high even after some of the original novelty may have worn off,” MCYSA President John Streit said.
“It’s still amazing the number of people that come out to watch the games. We’re definitely proud of everything we’ve accomplished over the years.”
This year there aren’t as many international teams in the field, because of different financial reasons, but there are still three or four teams from Puerto Rico and Japan accounted for in the field of 65 teams between the three divisions, 11 and under, 13U and 15U.
The tournament also consists of several local teams such as the Crystal Lake Cyclones, the Lake in the Hills Thunder, the Crystal Lake Bombers and the McHenry Cobras to name a few.
Pool play will being in both the U11 and U15s on Saturday. It is also the first day of planned ceremonies for the tournament, which includes a parade of teams, fireworks and featured games at Lippold Park in Crystal Lake. Festivities start at 7:30 p.m.
“Like any large event, the tournament has had its ups and downs, but if you look at its whole body of work, it’s just an amazing event,” Executive Tournament Director Jack Sebesta said. “The tournament just brings really good baseball to the area, and we see that with the number of participants we get each year coming out to the games.”
According to Sebesta, about 30 kids who have played in the tournament have gone on to play in the majors, and it’s in the thousands now who have gone on to play some sort of college baseball.
“When we started this back in 1993 our main priority was to give our local athletes the chance to play a major tournament, right here at home with their families watching, and we’ve been able to for quite some time now,” Sebesta said.
Armed Forces Night will be Sunday, with veterans in attendance being honored. That will be followed Monday with the MCYSA’s Hall of Fame Night, honoring volunteers of the organization as well as the awarding of $1,000 scholarships to five athletes who previously played in the tournament.
The tournament has also always been a boost to the local economy. Organizers estimate that the total value of the one-week tournament is around $2 million. Many stores, hotels and restaurants have one of their best earning weeks of the year during the tournament.
“Our organization recognizes that we run a good wholesome tournament, where kids in the area get to play teams from outside the U.S,” Streit said.
“It’s something the kids really enjoy, and after the mad scramble to get everything going, we are just anxious for the teams to arrive so we can start playing some baseball.”
Saturday: 15U and 13U round-robin games begin. Opening ceremonies for 11U begin at 2:45 p.m. at Boncosky.
Opening ceremonies for the 15U event will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the Babe Ruth Fields at Lippold Park. This event includes a parade of teams and fireworks. Featured 15U games, including international teams, will take place after the ceremony.
Sunday: Armed Forces Night, where all veterans in attendance will be honored. Ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. at Babe Ruth fields at Lippold Park, and will be followed by more featured games.
Monday: Three community volunteers will be inducted into the MCYSA Hall of Fame. Five local students, who have participated in past tournaments, also will be awarded $1,000 scholarships. Ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. at Lippold Park.
Tuesday: Rain/Make-up game day. As well as, featured Cubs outing for participating individuals.
Wednesday: Double-elimination games begin for 11U and 15U. Tournament starts for 13U.
Aug. 2: Single-elimination games begin for 13U, as well as championship games for 11U.
Aug. 3: Last day of the tournament. Championship games in 13U and 15U.