Triple Crown World Series puts sportsmanship on main stage in Steamboat
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For two weeks, Steamboat Springs will be a baseball town.
Triple Crown Sports has hosted its baseball world series in Steamboat Springs for 20 years. The tournament is an open invitational and draws teams to the Yampa Valley from all over the country. It started July 24 and runs through July 29, then picks back up July 31 to Aug. 5.
“Because it’s such a big expensive trip for the families and highly desirable for families to attend, we want people to have plenty of time to fundraise and plan starting in the fall,” Triple Crown sports director Roland Rivera said.
Rivera grew up in Steamboat, attending high school in town before playing collegiate baseball at Western State in Gunnison. Now residing in Fort Collins, Rivera still claims Steamboat as home.
“Oh yeah, I’ve never left,” Rivera said. “I worked in the ski business as a kid through my 20s, went to high school with a lot of Olympians, and I’ve never gotten far from it.”
The World Series baseball tournament usually lasts three weeks in the summer, but this year, the tournament has been condensed to two weeks, welcoming 122 teams with players age 11 to 14. The changes were made so kids would have more time between baseball and school
There will also be elite divisions offered for 11- and 13-year-olds next week, which means some of the nation’s top baseball clubs will be competing in Steamboat.
To prepare, city parks supervisor Ernie Jenkins puts together two crews to maintain the seven baseball fields in town. The day crew helps prepare the fields for the baseball teams while also transitioning them to Steamboat adult softball league play on Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
“The park staff moves the pitching mounds off the fields, and we get ready for (the night’s) local adult softball,” Jenkins said.
The night shift then cleans up the fields for Triple Crown baseball the next day.
“It keeps us very busy — a lot of games in a short period of time on our fields — we try to keep them in good shape and make sure everybody has fun,” Jenkins said.
Along with the usual park maintenance, Rivera has implemented a few more changes.
Hanging on the fences in front of the bleachers are banners that read, “Positive parenting zone,” and in the dugout, “Positive coaching zone.” The idea came from Triple Crown’s new partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance. Rivera tested similar banners years ago at a tournament in California and thought he could bring them to Steamboat.
In a world where kids are being recruited at younger ages across all sports, Rivera thinks it’s important that both parents and coaches remember that baseball is about teaching teamwork and life skills, win or lose.
“I care about it, I care about kids,” Rivera said. “You’ve got to screw some things up before things get better.”
The banners also are meant to foster a positive environment for officials. Across the country, youth sports have experienced a shortage of officials.
“The officiating base is starting to age, and it’s because of the somewhat competitive environment,” Rivera said. “We want to help grow our officiating base again.”
On Tuesday night, Rivera said more than 1,000 people attended the Triple Crown’s opening ceremonies at Steamboat Resort’s Gondola Square. Next Tuesday, he expects the same.
The opening ceremonies featured hitting and pitching contests, races, team competitions and prizes for everyone to enjoy, and the night concluded with keynote speaker, sports psychologist Mario Soto.
Rivera believes Soto’s message of fostering positivity in competition is important for kids and parents to hear before a week of competitive baseball.
“We have a great platform to help educate parents and coaches on really the right way to handle being in the competitive environment,” Rivera said. “And also setting a great example for these young players. Some will play high school, but all will contribute to society.”
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