Steamboat Springs To get to the Triple Crown baseball tournament in Steamboat Springs this weekend, the PPCBA Mets, a baseball team for 13-year-old boys from Colorado Springs, took the long way.
They went west across the state and then up through Rifle and Meeker, a seven-hour trip.
Because only five parents were able to come to the tournament, team members were packed into a handful of cars.
Parents driving said the boys were so excited that they talked for most of the ride.
"The (boys) were fun they sit there and dance to the music," parent Lori Lave said. Lave drove her son and two other team members. All of the team members kept in touch with a set of walkie-talkies.
Despite the thrill of going to a competition, Lave said that after about five hours, the boys got tired of being in the car.
"The boys in the car were getting mad there's nothing to see between Craig and Meeker," Lave said. "I just said, 'Well, these will be the things you'll remember.'"
For many children and adults who play softball, baseball or other sports, the chance to travel to a Triple Crown tournament is worth even the long hours on the road.
"To be able to travel and play that's the ultimate for them, I think," said John McBride, whose 14-year-old daughter Katie plays for the Utah Lady Warriors, a team from Salt Lake City that spent seven hours on the road caravanning to Steamboat.
McBride said he and his wife often travel to watch their daughter play, sometimes going as far as Las Vegas or Fort Collins.
But driving to tournaments is especially worth the trouble if Steamboat is the destination, parents at this weekend's games repeatedly said.
"After the tournament (last year), all the parents begged the coaches, 'Please schedule Steamboat Springs again,'" Kathy Motes said. Motes' daughter Maggie was playing for the Sweet Cleats, a fastpitch softball team for girls 14 years old and younger.
The Sweet Cleats came from Golden, which is about three hours from Steamboat.
Motes said Steamboat is so attractive for tournaments because the area is beautiful and offers a lot of activities. She listed tubing, shopping, visiting the hot springs and riding the alpine slide as some of the team's favorites.
But Motes said she recognized that Triple Crown tournaments probably were not a highlight of summer for local residents.
"I'm sure the local residents are not real tickled about all of us being here," Motes said. "It's just that we can tell that the town is full of visitors while we're here."
Public comments at recent City Council meetings support Motes' point. Throughout the year, some residents have voiced concerns that Triple Crown tournaments bring too much traffic and too many tourists to town. But other residents have said the tournaments serve as an important economic boost.
City and Chamber Resort Association officials have yet to decide if they will sign a new five-year contract with Triple Crown to keep the baseball and softball summer tournaments in town.
Parents from various teams playing this weekend said they haven't felt like the tournaments annoy local residents. Most were surprised to hear Triple Crown is often a controversial subject in the town.
"Oh really?" Denise Hacking said with surprise when told some local residents are not Triple Crown fans. Hacking's daughter Kristin plays for the Angels, a 14-and-under fastpitch softball team from Vernal, Utah.
"I haven't run into anybody that acts like we're inconveniencing them," Hacking said.
She said the Steamboat residents she had met were all friendly.
"One thing I like about Colorado is you always run into nice people," Hacking said.
Other parents agreed.
"I think we're getting a great reception," Shelly Schumacher said during her 13-year-old son's baseball game. "I've not gotten the feeling that people are looking down at us saying, 'There's another baseball team.'"
Schumacher said her son's team, which is called the Windsor Wizards after its hometown of Windsor, came to the Steamboat tournament because of its reputation for being a great place to compete.
"We heard Steamboat was fun, and it's pretty," Schumacher said. "And you always hear people saying that Steamboat is the place to play."
Schumacher's husband is the Wizards' coach, so the entire family, including the couple's 4-month-old son and 2-year-old son, came to watch.
They drove up in one of a half-dozen cars and vans with windows covered with red and yellow slogans such as "Windsor No. 1" or "Windsor Rules."
Valeria Waters tagged along with the team to cheer for the players, even though her son isn't on the baseball team. Her son plays soccer and will be at a Steamboat tournament next month.
Waters said the trip was like a mini-vacation for her and she can't wait to get back to tell her son about Steamboat.
"I'm thinking even without a tournament, this would be a nice place to come up," Waters said. "There's so much to do."
Mets' parent Lave said she would guess that local residents would like the business that the tournaments bring to town. She also said she was surprised people would get annoyed by sports competitions that give children the chance to travel and play.
"This should be fun this is for the kids," Lave said. "Your kids have one chance at being young, and it's nice we can give them this opportunity."
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