The Grand Forks International Baseball Tournament has gone local with their 12th and final team. The last roster spot will be filled by the Grand Forks Blues.
The Blues will feature mainly local players but are expected to add a few “ringers” from other communities to make them even more competitive.
GFI coordinator Brian McAndrew said it will be great to have a local team for fans to cheer for. He also sees a natural rivalry between the Blues and the Trail Orioles.
“Since it is our tournament, having a local team represent us is very important,” he said. “It gives us great community spirit which is important. That’s the thing about this tournament—it shows just how much community spirit we have here.”
This is McAndrew’s first year as coordinator after several years on the board including two as vice-president.
This year’s roster of teams features a strong assortment of teams from throughout B.C. and Washington State including the defending champion Burnaby Bulldogs and the perennial powerhouse Seattle Studs.
Although the tournament lacks the international draw of a China or Russia like in previous years, McAndrew says it’s still high caliber baseball sure to thrill fans.
“As far as the teams go, we’ve got top-level teams as we’ve always had,” said McAndrew. “Their attitude about the GFI is that it is their favourite. It’s the best tournament that they attend and they all look forward to coming here each year and playing.”
McAndrew said the GFI is more than just a baseball tournament—it’s an event.
He said that the cancellation of the 2013 GFI is no cause for concern. It is a challenge organizing such a large-scale event, he admits.
“The 2014 tournament had some of the best baseball yet with a final game that took everyone’s breath away after cheering the Burnaby Bulldogs to a heart-pounding finish,” he said.
This year will be the 34th tournament in 40 years (1975 to 2015). The GFI runs from June 30 to July 5 and will encompass both Canada Day and the American Fourth of July.
Local singer Amanda Thate will be on hand to sing the national anthems of both Canada and the United States. There is also a fly-over planned for the opening ceremonies.
Putting on the tournament requires the coordination of a small army of volunteers. McAndrew said the committee is in good shape but good always use more helpers.
“We need about 300 volunteers each year to do it,” said McAndrew. “In a town of 4,000, trying to get 300 able-bodied volunteers is a challenge.”
To get a tournament pass, volunteers need to work 12 hours, which is usually broken down into three four- hour shifts.
“Our biggest challenge is always filling the list for taking tickets at the gate but doesn’t stop at that,” he said. “We have many other jobs including Hardball Café, field crew, first aid, guest relations, maintenance and more.