All hands on deck needed to host state baseball tournament

Hosting tournaments takes a lot of coordination and hard work. Jerry Mendoza, Hillsboro’s Director of Parks and Recreation, is looking forward to the challenge of coordinating and hosting the 2024 Cal Ripken 10U (under) Kansas State Baseball Tournament on July 19-21 at the Sports Complex and Memorial Field.

To the uninformed, it may not seem all that daunting. After all, rounding up some umpires and having fields ready for play doesn’t sound too difficult. What could possibly go wrong?

I say that in jest. At least eight, and maybe 15 or more teams, will come from across Kansas to play baseball and “experience Hillsboro for all it has to offer,” said Mendoza. The winning team qualifies for regionals.

“Most cities get this hosting opportunity by having successful prior tournaments. Cal Ripken is always looking for new hosting cities or ones that have not hosted in a while. Hillsboro last hosted a state tournament in the 2010s. They heard we were doing some facility renovations and inquired if we were interested in participating,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza is excited to showcase the recent improvements made to all the ball fields in Hillsboro.

“Over the summer of 2023, we undertook the project of resurfacing all the infields at the Sports Complex and Memorial Field,” said Mendoza. “This required several tons of premium infield surface materials. This year, the high school teams (baseball and softball) will be playing on premium crushed shell infield clay. This will make playing conditions one of the best in the area.”

As many as 100 volunteers are needed to serve on one of seven committees, according to Mendoza.

“A tournament like this is going to have a lot of moving parts,” said Mendoza. “Each part is as important as the others to make this a success. There will be a need for people to handle gate attendance, concessions, marketing, housing, food, events, opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies, players’ non-baseball related events and, of course, all the baseball games in the tournament. We’re even planning to make an exhibit to show the baseball history of Hillsboro and Marion County in the Hillsboro Museum at the Visitor Center.”

Although Mendoza hasn’t coordinated an event this large, he has some event planning experience.

“I run a not-for-profit ministry called Bottom of the Ninth, where we focus on teaching sports the right way by having kids work on fundamentals and learn lessons that they can not only use in the sport, but also in life experiences after sports,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza also has experience organizing speaking events, fundraising events and numerous youth camps. He knows that with any event comes new and unforeseen challenges.

“As with life, to be successful, you must prepare to encounter some of those challenges and learn from them the best you can on the fly and adjust as you go.

“As the host city, it is customary to have designated host homes, but over the last couple of years the Cal Ripken League has eliminated that aspect of the tournament,” said Mendoza. “We have reached an agreement with Tabor College to host the players and coaches. This is exciting news as it will create an environment where players from several parts of the state can build new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Our next task is to see about the possibility of housing visiting parents.”

If this sounds like a significant undertaking for a city our size, you’re right. It will be all hands on deck. “We will be depending on the help of the entire community to put on this tournament at the level that will show the Cal Ripken League that we can host the next level, a regional tournament, and hopefully, one year, the World Series,” said Mendoza.

Hosting this tournament is hard work, but it isn’t without benefits, according to Mendoza, including additional revenue for local businesses, added excitement for the sport with our youth, interest to host tournaments in other sports and showing visitors that are unfamiliar with Hillsboro what we are capable of doing.

“Most importantly,” said Mendoza, “this is a chance to show the Cal Ripken League that we are ready to host more events.”

Mendoza and many others are doing all they can to prepare to host an outstanding tournament, with the realization that some things are outside their control, like the Kansas weather.

If you’d like to volunteer, contact Mendoza at jmendoza@cityofhillsboro.net.

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