TEMECULA – Memorial weekend you may have noticed a lot more kids donning baseball uniforms in the area, especially if you live near the Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula. The 11th annual Triple Crown Memorial Day classic was in town and brought with it over 192 travel baseball teams that ranged in age from 7 to 16 years old.
The tournament itself has become quite the staple over the years, helping boost sales over the holiday weekend in the area to many of the local hotels and restaurants and sporting goods stores and of course with Wine Country so close, an increase in families coming from out of town a day early and staying a day later isn’t an uncommon trend anymore.
“School is close to being out for the summer for the kids, so we make a family vacation out of it every year,” says Rosalie Mendez, who has a son on the Apaches from Bellflower.
Teams came in from as far away as Washington, Colorado, Utah, and Hawaii and of course for those that have travel team’s right here in the area, it gives the players a chance to see some fresh faces on the fields.
“This tournament requires a lot of field space and we go into planning almost six months in advance,” says Triple Crown tournament director, Kyle Gribble. The Ronald Reagan sports park provided a large amount of fields for the younger divisions while other fields at Los Alamos, Paloma Del Sol, Harveston, and Patricia Birdsall were used as well as a few local high schools that offered up some room, including Temecula Valley, Vista Murrieta, and Great Oak, which were all utilized for the older players.
The hard working staff went into planning almost a year ago and will go back to work preparing for next year’s tournament in a couple of weeks.
“There is a lot we have to do behind the scenes, and it all starts with our good friends at the City of Temecula,” says Kyle. “We have to meet with them a few times a year as who then have to meet with the Visitors and Convention Bureau which really helps us spread the word as well. Then we have to make sure we get good support from the community, the local hotels that want to partner up and then we look hard for the local restaurants that can provide some great deals for our participants.”
The Great Oak softball program was out in full force showing support and was a huge help for this year’s tournament as they assisted with concessions and were also on site raising money for their program by cooking up some good eats.
Aside from the local teams and the ones that come from out of state, a huge draw for this tournament comes from the San Diego and Los Angeles-based teams that use this as a middle ground to face off in neutral territory.
“It’s kind of like the MLB for a lot of these players, during the year they go off and play in each other’s backyards, but when you get to travel outside of your comfort zone and meet up in the middle, well it makes for a good match up that’s for sure,” exclaimed a proud dad from the 13U Championship Tomateros team.
The reward for the teams that placed first and second included medals and trophies and for those that also made it through to the semi finals, they all receive a qualifying bid to the Las Vegas World Series that takes place in July and again in September.
“Some of the age groups are broken up and made into 2 separate divisions, A D1 and D2, which are very much necessary for some of the groups of teams,” says Gribble. “The competition is pretty fierce, especially for the teams that have been playing together all year already and we want to make it fair. There are a lot of teams that use this tournament as the kick off to the Summer Travel season, and some come out using it as their season ender before they take time off; you never want to see a strong team crush a brand new team, it happens, but we take our brackets seriously and try to avoid it as much as we can.”
This year’s winners list includes some very recognizable teams in the travel ball world as well as a few newcomers that are looking to gain some notoriety. Many of the teams that took home 1st place also went through the tournament with minimal losses, and a good amount even went undefeated.
“Which isn’t really a surprise,” says Gribble. “These teams that win are teams that play together almost every day. There were no story book endings out there this year, granted there were some great games that came down to the wire, but that’s to be expected and whether a team goes undefeated or loses them all, for me, seeing the kids out here, playing ball and having fun is a constant reminder as to why I got into this arena over 5 years ago.”
Here is a list of winners from this past weekend’s event and for a more detailed list of all who participated, visit www.triplecrownsports.com.
7U – SGV Hustle, 8U – Easton Elite, 9U Division 1 – So Cal Outlaws (Black), 9U Division 2 – Menace Baseball Club, 10U Division 1 – VSA Vipers, 10U Division 2 – Carlsbad Stingers, 11U Division 1 – San Diego Longhorns, 11U Division 2 – Eaters BBC, 12U Division 1 – So Cal SKLZ – 12U Division 2 – Predators Baseball Club, 13U Division 1 – Tomateros, 13U Division 2 – So Cal Express, 14U – San Diego Show, 15/16U Wood Bat – Tides Baseball Club.