It’s time to play ball!
The opening pitch for the 38th annual Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament will be thrown out Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at James Donaldson Park.
In an interview with Vista Radio, tournament director Steve Boutang says it’s been a lot of work to organize the event after two years of pandemic postponements.
“It’s been more than a challenge, it’s been an ordeal,” he explained.
Boutang says U.S. teams couldn’t come due to COVID travel rules. Some didn’t have enough players who were fully vaccinated. He adds an overseas team that had planned to come wasn’t able to get their visa documents processed in time due to the government backlog.
“That’s caused us to look outside the box a little bit. We were able to get some teams from Alberta to join us which are great because they’re high level teams and they’ll fit in very well. And we’re also taking on a couple of new teams from the Pacific International League,” he explained.
There are eight teams taking part instead of the usual 10 or 12.
“The eight teams that are coming are excited and they’re of high quality and I’m sure the fans will not notice any difference in the quality of ball that they’re used to and we’re very excited to have everybody back for the GFI,” Boutang said.
Boutang estimates the tournament brings in close to $1 million to the local economy for a city that’s been struggling since the flooding.
“By the time you factor in the amount of money the fans spend, the amount of money that the players and teams bring in, hotel rooms, restaurants, any purchases they make in the city. It’s a great financial boost to the city that’s quite honestly struggling from the floods in a lot of ways,” he said.
“For people to be able to have something to be happy about and celebrate and enjoy going out to the ball park again…is going to boost the spirits of people too, I think.”
Opening ceremonies and the home run derby happen Tuesday night (June 28, 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.) with games all week leading up to the championship final on Sunday, July 3rd at 1 p.m.
Boutang says they are still looking for volunteers as it takes about 200 to run the tournament for the entire week. For 12 hours of work, the tournament will compensate helpers with a tournament pass to watch games later in the week. More information is on their Facebook page.