Preparing for the 2011 GFI

This year's Grand Forks International baseball tournament is approaching and according to the tournament co-ordinator, it's shaping up to be another good year.

2011 GFI Co-ordinator Joan Thomas

Grand Forks is gearing up for another edition of the GFI.

This year’s Grand Forks International baseball tournament (GFI) is fast-approaching and according to tournament co-ordinator it is shaping up to be another good year.

Joan Thomas said that all 12 teams in the tournament have been confirmed – the Victoria Mavericks, Langley Sr. Blaze, Kamloops Sun Devils, Grand Forks Blues, Trail Orioles, Team Canada, the defending champion Seattle Studs, Thurston County Senators, Lewiston Paffile Truckers, San Diego Stars, Cali Showcase baseball team and from Australia, the Geelong Baycats.

“Plans (for the tournament) are going very well,” Thomas explained.

“The programs are on the street, the schedule is on the Internet, by division, and it’s in the program, which is exciting for us. Normally, we don’t get that ‘til later.”

Thomas also says that support from businesses and sponsors have also been very good and preparations for the diamond at James Donaldson Park – where the tournament will be played – are coming along as well.

“We met with the city at the field, going over maintenance and everything and the city’s all onboard because we partner with them to get it all spruced up and looking good,” Thomas explained.

She also said volunteer team leaders are working on their volunteer lists and organizers are always looking for volunteers.

“It takes over 300 volunteers, it’s a huge event, so anybody that wants to volunteer, there’s a form on the website – it’s coming together very well.”

The tournaments alumni list features a number of notable major leaguers, such as Trail boy and current New York Met Jason Bay, former Toronto Blue Jay and Seattle Mariner John Olerud and 2003 World Series MVP and current Boston Red Sox starter Josh Beckett.

There is also a potential MLBer at this year’s tournament as well.

The Minnesota Twins have signed Australian high school pitcher Sam Gibbons to a minor league deal and according to a news release, Gibbons was selected to the Baycats squad that will appear at the GFI.

“He’s going to be playing here and Gerry Foster (volunteer) thinks that it may be the first time that someone’s been signed before (the tournament),” Thomas said.

“We’ve had people discovered at the GFI or signed after the GFI (and their college career) but this is quite exciting.”

The tournament begins on Aug. 31 with two games – Thurston County and Cali Showcase in the opener and Langley taking on Australia.

The opening ceremonies will take place the next day followed by the home team Blues taking on their rivals from Trail.