Living in Northwest Colorado, youth baseball coaches and players find it difficult to schedule top-level competition without traveling across the Continental Divide.
Teams in local leagues play each other over and over, but Shane Camilletti wanted more for young boys in the Yampa Valley, so he started the Northwest Colorado Lynx and signed it up for Triple Crown.
After two full seasons in Triple Crown, Camilletti said he has noticed a change in the 11-year-olds' competitive attitudes and commitment to baseball. This season, the Lynx won their second-straight state championship and recorded top-three finishes in several other tournaments at the Division 1 and 2 levels.
Northwest Colorado's baseball season is finished, but that doesn't mean baseball is off the boys' minds.
"They were ready to play the night we were done," Camilletti said. "They don't lose their desire throughout the year. ... I wanted to give kids the opportunity to play at that level."
Without Triple Crown, Northwest Colorado teams would have to travel nearly every weekend during the summer to face club squads and all-star teams formed to compete in summer tournaments.
The presence of Triple Crown tournaments in Northwest Colorado gave the Lynx and several other teams comprised of players from Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Craig and Meeker the chance to face elite squads from California, Kansas, Texas and the Front Range -- all while sleeping in their own beds at night.
Camilletti said he thinks there is a link between Triple Crown tournament exposure and the improving results of baseball teams in Routt and Moffat counties.
Triple Crown's summer schedule comes to an end in Steamboat on Sunday.
The Triple Crown season began with a girls fast-pitch softball tournament June 10 and will wrap up Sunday with the championship games in this weekend's adult slow-pitch summer nationals.
In all, more than 750 youth and adult teams took the fields in Oak Creek, Steamboat, Hayden and Craig. Some teams traveled no farther than a few miles. Others came from as far away as Florida, Connecticut or Mexico to compete in Triple Crown qualifiers or World Series tournaments. Ten Triple Crown tournaments were staged in Steamboat this summer.
While in town, many of the players spent their time off the fields enjoying the pleasant weather, the mountains or visiting the Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation Center, Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Alpine Slide or the Yampa River.
Highlights from the season included the introduction of television for the Division I championships, as well as visits by current Major League pitcher Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros and Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Both were in town to watch their sons compete in the World Series.
Thad Anderson, Triple Crown's director of Colorado baseball, said the TV production of the championship games in the 10- and 13-year-old divisions went very well, and it is something Triple Crown would like to continue.
"The teams were excited beyond their belief," Anderson said. "We've gotten excellent feedback. Somewhere between 17 million and 20 million was the final distribution on the broadcast. ... Now that we've done one year (what we do now) is look at getting major sponsors and partners that would present the World Series."
Anderson also thanked the city of Steamboat Springs' workers for their maintenance of the fields during the duration of the Triple Crown schedule.
In addition to introducing television, Triple Crown added a Division 2 level and double-elimination format to tournament play. Anderson said all three changes have been successful, and he didn't anticipate any changes for next summer.
"Heads are still spinning from this summer," he said.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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