Steamboat Springs The Triple Crown World Series will open tonight with a parade of teams at the Romick Rodeo Arena.
But more than a few of the hundreds of baseball players who visit Steamboat Springs over the next few days are hoping their experience will end when their team is crowned champions at an awards ceremony at the top of Mount Werner Sunday evening.
"We will have a record number of teams in town this weekend," Triple Crown spokesman Sean Hardy said. "It's not a huge increase from last year, but we will have six more teams total over the two-week period which is a record."
A majority of the 126 teams for this weekend's events have already arrived in town. That number is up from 114 that played in session I of last year's Triple Crown World Series.
Teams will take part in skills tests today at Howelsen Hill and the opening ceremonies tonight. Games begin at 7 a.m. Thursday and will continue through Sunday afternoon, when the championship contests for the 10-and-under, 12-and-under, 14-and-under and 16-and-under divisions take place at Howelsen.
"Most of the teams in this year's World Series will be from outside of Colorado," Hardy said. "We will have two teams from Seattle, Wash., which is a new market for us."
This week's events will be the first of two weeks of youth baseball in Steamboat. Triple Crown will also host a weekend of girls fastpitch softball and adult softball in the next month.
Next weekend 130 teams will compete in the second part of the World Series event. That number of teams is actually less than last year, when 136 teams took part in session II.
"That may have been too many teams," Hardy said of last year. 'This year I'm maxed out both weekends, but if everything runs on schedule, it should be a great tournament."
Once the baseball tournament comes to an end, the girls softball tournament will move into town Aug. 7-11. Hardy thinks this may be the last year the girls fastpitch tournament is played in Steamboat. Next year that event is expected to move to Park City, Utah. Hardy is hoping that will allow another weekend of baseball here but said nothing is for sure because a contract agreement has yet to be reached with Steamboat.
The Triple Crown World Series began in 1994 in Golden with 45 teams. In 1997 it was moved to Steamboat Springs and hosted 151 teams from 12 states. The numbers of youth teams coming to Steamboat has steadily increased since then, with 250 teams from 22 states competing last year.
This year Triple Crown will use 18 fields in Moffat and Routt counties to host the tournament. The majority of games will be played on eight fields in Craig and seven in Steamboat.
Two fields in Oak Creek and one in Hayden will also have to be used to accommodate the 156 total teams.