Hamilton lays down welcome mat for major development baseball tournaments

Play ball. And play and play and play. That’s the theme this weekend and next in Hamilton when some of North America’s promising young ball players showcase their talents before professional team scouts and university coaches.

This weekend’s diamond drama will feature players 16 to 18 years old in the CanAm International SANDLOTT National Elimination Baseball Tournament. SANDLOTT is an acronym for Select Amateur National Development Leagues of Travel Teams. The CanAm Classic, with Senior and Junior divisions, wraps up on Sunday.

Then on July 13 to 16, the SANDLOTT 15-and-under World Championships return to the spotlight in Hamilton. It was played here last year and despite inclement weather, SANDLOTT officials headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, awarded the four-day event back to Hamilton organizers.

“I was really pleased last year with how well everything went in spite of the weather,” said Canadian Thunderbirds CEO and CanAm SANDLOTT National Elimination Tournament Co-ordinator, Mel Oswald.

“We made up most of the games, and we had several people come to us and say what a very classy tournament it was. They were extremely thrilled to be here.”

Oswald’s Thunderbirds organization also operates the senior Intercounty Baseball League Hamilton Thunderbirds.

Games for both tournaments will be played at Bernie Arbour Stadium, Mohawk Sports Complex, the new Heritage Green Sports Complex and Glanbrook Sports Complex.

The 2006 CanAm International SANDLOTT National Elimination Tournament, sponsored by Nocona Athletic Goods of Nacona, Texas, Tourism Hamilton, and T. Litzen Sports of Dundas, is considered one of the premier baseball events in North American baseball circles. Many of the finest elite calibre teams from both sides of the border compete head-to-head. This year it includes two former US National Champions.

This major competition is a key qualification event with the winner of the Senior Division earning a berth in the SANDLOTT 18 and under World Series. The Junior winners qualify for the 2007 World Championships.

In 2005, the Senior Championship went to Long Island Tigers West and their third baseman Joe Badalamente was voted the Most Valuable Player in that category. The Intermediate title went to Hamilton Cobras while the Junior Division went to Hamilton’s Canadian Thunderbirds.