The Spring-Ford Youth Athletic League (SFYAL) plays host to the Cal Ripken State Tournament for kids eight and under and 12 and under respectively for the third consecutive year.
Last night marked the beginning of the festivities with an opening ceremony slated for 6 p.m. The teams, which include Spring-Ford, Audubon, East Brandywine, Lehigh Valley (12U only), West End Red (12U only) and West End Blue (12U only), Kimberton, Douglassville, Southern Chester County (12U only), Langhorne (12U only), Upper Adams (8U only), New Oxford (8U only) and Methacton (8U only) were introduced.
Next, the Star Spangled Banner was played and former Phillies great Bobby Wine gave an opening speech.
"I want all the kids to realize that you're good or else you wouldn't be here, but you can get better," Wine said. "I want you to practice, but practice the things you can't do rather than the things you can do. We all know the guys who can hit and do all that, but we want you to be a better fielder, a better base runner, be a good sportsman, be good to your teammates, your players, your other team, and even umpires. They are a big part of the game and they do a great job.
"Practice hard, give it your all, play as good as you can ... This is the best time of your life ... there's going to be a champion, but everybody here is a winner, so keep that in mind. There's losers and winners, but everyone here is a winner."
Wine started with the Phillies organization in 1960 and finished his playing career in 1972. He won a Gold Glove with the organization in 1963 at shortstop. In the late 1970s, he was the bench coach and helped Dallas Green's 1980 team win the World Series.
After the speech, kids played in skills competitions, including a Home Run Derby, around the horn and relays. Pool play games are today and Sunday, with four semifinals games (two 12U and two 8U) being played on Monday. The finals are Tuesday night at 5 p.m.
The complex is behind Spring City Elementary School. League secretary Bryan Walbridge said that welcome packets with Valley Forge Visitors' Center information packets and local restaurant coupons are available to all in attendance. Walbridge said the local traffic won't be too much different than the regular season. But, there is one pesky issue that they may have to deal with.
"The obvious answer is it certainly is going to bring traffic in here," Walbridge said. "Unfortunately with the road construction with the [Royersford-Spring City] bridge come Monday, it’s going to hurt us a little bit."
Walbridge also sees an increase in business on both ends of the spectrum, especially in food service and restaurants.
"I do expect some of the local restaurants, especially the chains people are familiar with, like Texas Roadhouse, Outback and Applebee's," said Walbridge. "Those kinds of restaurants are already in people’s GPS, so they’ll just drive out and go there. I do hope that the local businesses like Annamarie's [Place], Spring City Diner, those kinds of things, we’re going to try to promote those family-run businesses as much as the chains."
Contrary to some speculations, Walbridge doesn't foresee the community becoming angered by the increased traffic over the course of the next few days.
“For the most part, it’s a non-issue," said Walbridge. "You can only have four games going on at a time. In terms of the traffic of the interior community, it’s no different than any other weekend during the rec season. I don’t see the community being negatively impacted in any way. Our games are done by 7 at night.”
While the state tournament holds great implications for the local kids, there is a regional tournament that hosts the entire Mid-Atlantic region's best starting on July 29. SFYAL will play host again that weekend.
“We host the higher level tournaments like the states and regionals, but it doesn’t come free," said vice president Frank Pastella. "We have to put up a substantial amount of money to host these tournaments. Of course, the sponsorships help reimburse those funds. It gets kind of tough. We appreciate any support that we can get."
Along with sponsorships, Pastella noted volunteers are also needed. It can take hundreds of people to put on a "Broadway-like atmosphere" as Pastella described it, as teams from New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware will all be coming to town.
"We need people out here weed whacking, cutting grass, setting up a tent for the umpires, parking cars," Pastella said. "It’s ridiculous the amount of people that we need to help us put this thing on.
"If there’s anybody that wants to come out and help, they can go on our website and contact the commissioner. We’d be more than happy to have anybody who wants to come out and help. If churches have any sort of community outreach to help people do community service hours, send them to us."