The Triple Crown World Series will step to the plate today for the first of three weeks of youth baseball in the Yampa Valley.
Organizers still are expecting a large number of vans with the names of visiting teams proudly painted in the windows to roll through town this summer, but they also admit there will be a few less teams in town for this year's tournament, which will be held during three weeks instead of four.
Triple Crown spokesman Matt Van Alsburg said Thursday that the number of teams taking part in the 2008 Triple Crown World Series will be down this summer. That number fell from 348 teams last summer to an expected 300 this summer.
"There are several reasons," Van Alsburg said. "Some of it has to do with formatting, and some of it has to do with the price of gas."
But despite having a few less teams, Van Alsburg says he expects the same high level of competition as in the past.
Sandy Evans Hall, executive vice president of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said she doesn't think residents or local business will notice the decline this summer because it will be spread out over three weeks, and that the actual number of teams here for the weekends will be similar to last year. Evans Hall said the drop from four weeks to three weeks had more to do with the calendar than the numbers. Triple Crown went to three weeks because most of the competitors will be going back to school in mid-August, making it difficult to get teams to come to tournaments.
"Because of the national economy and gas prices, our group business has been down all summer," Evans Hall said. "Personally I'm glad that we have a strong group sports business in this community because individual business is down even more."
The first session, which is scheduled to run Monday through Sunday (July 27), is expected to draw 105 teams to Steamboat Springs in a seven-day period. Divisions taking the field will include 8-and-under, 10-and-under division 1, 10-and-under division 2, 13-and-under division 1 and a 14-year-old division playing on 80-foot base paths.
The second session, which runs from July 28 to Aug. 3, will include the 9-and-under division 1 and division 2, the 12-and-under division 1 and division 2 and the 14-and-under division playing on 90-foot base paths. Van Alsburg said he expects 100 teams for that week.
Triple Crown's final week of play this summer, scheduled for Aug. 4 to 9, will include the 11-and-under division 1 and division 2, as well as the 13-and-under division 2 classification. That tournament will end on Saturday evening so that parents and school-aged children can get home. That division will feature 95 teams.
"Most of the players in those divisions have to go back to school on Monday," Van Alsburg said. "So we want to wrap up Saturday so that families have a travel day before school begins."
During the second session, the championship games for the 9-and-under division 1, and the 12-and-under division 1 games will be filmed for television. Van Alsburg said the games are scheduled to be aired three times on Altitude Sports & Entertainment. The first airing of the 9-and-under game will be at 4 p.m. Aug. 9, and the first airing of the 12-and-under game will be at 2 p.m. Aug. 10.
This is the 14th year that Triple Crown has held the World Series and the 12th year the event has been held in the Steamboat Springs area.
Noreen Moore, business resource director for the Routt County Economic Development Cooperative, said it's important to manage the spectrum of economic factors in a community as opposed to looking to individual events like the Triple Crown tournaments.
"We can't keep reacting to isolated numbers in anything. What we are going by reacting to 'this is down, this is up, this is going away, or this is coming in an isolated section' makes us all terribly anxious," Moore said.
Instead she says we need to step back and look at the bigger picture to see what is going on, what might be forecast, what opportunities there are for the community and how best to keep a sense of community while handling our economy and understanding our economy.
"We have a much more complex economy than we had 25 years ago," Moore said. "It requires a bit more managing the spectrum of things : instead of looking at individual events."