CRYSTAL LAKE – Moreso than any result on the field, the McHenry County Youth Sports Association’s Summer International Championships always has been about the people involved.
For 22 years, the event has relied on the efforts of countless volunteers and community members to help make the tournament a premiere destination for youth baseball teams around the world.
On Monday, Executive Tournament Director Jack Sebesta and the MCYSA celebrated those individuals by announcing this year’s winners of the Justin Schroeder Student/Athlete Achievement Memorial Award and inducting three new members into the Hall of Fame.
The winners and inductees were announced at Lippold Park’s Mickey Sund Complex before a pair of 15U games, featuring CL Babe Ruth and the Pirates from Dorado, Puerto Rico – one of six international teams in the tournament.
“One of the main reasons we’re here and why this organization exists is to give back to the community in any way we can,” Sebesta said before announcing the winners of the Justin Schroeder award.
The scholarship, given to former players in the tournament, was established in 2003 and named after Schroeder, a 2001 Crystal Lake South graduate and former player on CL Babe Ruth, who died in a car accident a week before receiving the award. The MCYSA has awarded more than $62,000 in scholarships since its inception.
This year’s winners were Michael Decker (LITH Thunder), Luke Francis (CL Babe Ruth), Tanner Larkins (CL Cardinals), Timothy Hubner (CL Cyclones) and Katie O’Connor, who received the reward for her work with the Home Stay program.
Each winner receives $1,000 to assist in completing their undergraduate degree. The award is based on GPA, community service, leadership and an essay.
Justin’s parents, Kevin and Cathy Schroeder, were in attendance to present the awards to the winners.
“We’ve met a lot of great kids through this, and that has been our biggest joy,” Kevin Schroeder said. “We’re forever thankful for the MCYSA for this scholarship program in Justin’s name. It’s been the highlight of our summer every year.”
All of the winners signed a baseball for Kevin and Cathy, a tradition that started in 2003.
“We’re always just so pleased to come here and be a part of this,” Cathy Schroeder said. “He’s been gone 11 years and it’s just nice to be able to talk about him and have kids remember him and carry his name on.”
After the scholarship presentations, MCYSA President John Streit introduced the three new inductees of the now 23-member Hall of Fame: Ted Groat, Sig Shatz and Armando Bombino.
“The tournament has consistently grown over the years,” said Bombino, a past board member and manager of original host team CL Cardinals. “The competition has certainly gotten better. The best part is that more and more kids really enjoy it and have fun. It’s been great from the community.”
Shatz, who served on the board for 12 years, including six as president, was a key member who helped expand the tournament outside the boundaries of Crystal Lake, including its affiliation switch from the Continental Amateur Baseball Association to Nations Baseball.
“It feels great,” Shatz said. “When we took this over, it was on the verge of being extinct. We put together a smart team and brought it to where it is today. And that’s something to be proud of. I look back at those times and the opportunity that these kids get today. You can’t find anything like this anywhere.”