Visalia is home base for Cal Ripken World Series
By Jermaine Johnson II
Visalia plays host to the 2019 Cal Ripken Major 60 World Series for 2nd time since 2011
VISALIA – Young and competitive baseball players have descended upon Visalia and they are swinging for the fences to get into the World Series game.
Over 150 of the best youth baseball players in the country are competing at the 2019 Cal Ripken Major 60 World Series (CRWS). Visalia Youth Baseball, Visalia Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Visalia and Babe Ruth League Inc. have collaborated to ensure a memorable experience for some of the best 12-year-old baseball players in the United States and Guam.
The games started on Aug. 2 and are being played at Visalia’s Riverview Sports Park. There will be 12 teams competing in an eight-day tournament, ending with the World Series game. This will be the second time within the last ten years that Visalia has hosted the CRWS. They made history in 2011 becoming the first host city to win the World Series championship. Nearly 7,000 people were in attendance for that final game.
Korey Barham who toggles between pitcher and first base throws a fast ball during Saturday’s matchup. Photo by Tom Kreger.
“I think the tournament is huge for the city of Visalia, it will bring a lot of visitors,” said Claude Atkins, president of Visalia Youth Baseball. “We’re expecting 2,000-3,000 people there every day along with 50-60 vendors throughout the week.” He encourages Visalia residents to go support the tournament, especially people who enjoy baseball and youth sports.
The Wyndham Hotel in Visalia is the host hotel where all of the teams must stay. Four of the teams are from the Central Valley: two Visalia teams, a Hanford team, and a Fresno/Bullard team. Demea Metcalf, executive director of Visit Visalia, is excited for the city to host new people. “We want all of the teams to enjoy everything Visalia has to offer and to return again for their future family vacations,” she explained. “There’s so much to do here and it’s hard to see everything in one trip around a busy game schedule.”
With all of the planning that must happen, it takes about four to five years for a CRWS to take place. Three years ago, the contract was signed declaring Visalia as the host for this year. Since then, the committee overseeing the process has been meeting consistently. Chantel Medeiros-Horton is the tournament director and has worked with a team of volunteers to make sure everything was ready to go. “The other volunteers and I have worked countless hours to put this together,” she said.
Medeiros-Horton went on to explain how the volunteers work hard to provide a memorable experience for the kids. “At the end of the day, I love sports and I love kids. I also love giving back to the community and creating experiences like this that will last a lifetime.”
In honor of their 60th year chartering with Babe Ruth League, Guam received a special invite to participate in the CRWS. “We appreciate the invite after [nearly 50] years since the last time we participated. We thank the Babe Ruth League and the city of Visalia for having us,” said Roke Alcantara, commissioner of Cal Ripken Babe Ruth League in Guam.
The players, coaches, and their families flew over 17 hours to join the tournament. “I like Visalia; the leisurely pace reminds me of Guam” said Alcantara. He mentioned that there is a good number of people from Guam living nearby in Lemoore, and he’s excited to visit them along with other attractions such as Magic Mountain and Disneyland.
Frank Durazo is the coach of the Visalia Blue team and also coached the Visalia team that won the championship in 2011. He serves as a lifetime board member and majors manager with Visalia Youth Baseball sponsorships and programs coordinator for the 2019 World Series. He appreciates that the players get rewarded after working hard all summer.
“They had to win at each level starting with the district, state and regional” he explained. “Most of the teams here are the regional champions from around the country.” Durazo has coached some of the best baseball players that have come out of Visalia. One of the most notable being Aaron Hill, who served as the keynote speaker for the Banquet of Champions Dinner that took place at the Visalia Convention Center, one night before the tournament’s first game. Hill played under Durazo for three seasons before going on to have a successful 13-year career in Major League Baseball.
The Cal Ripken World Series will last until Aug. 9, which is the day of the final championship game. Spectators that want attend watch can purchase tickets on site. For a full week pass, the price is $100 for a family of four or $50 for one person. The passes for each day are $10 per adult or $5 for seniors and children who are 6 to 11 years old. Kids under four years old are free.