By STEVE KRAH
Youth baseball and community pride will again be on display when the 2017 Colt World Series makes its appearance Aug. 4-9 in Lafayette.
The championship of Pony Baseball for ages 15-16 will bring 10 zone-winning teams from around the globe together to enjoy moments on the Loeb Stadium field and off.
“It’s a community event,” says Tim Clark, president of Lafayette Colt Tournaments, Inc., the 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization which helps put the spotlight on a Tippecanoe County, Indiana, town has been home to the event in every year but one since 1969. “People have grown up around the Colt World Series.”
A small volunteer army makes things go. Besides Clark, the executive board features Ryan Johnson (vice president of Colt World Series Relations), Connie Basham (VP of Community Relations), Gus Marin (VP of Logistics), Lynn Clark Secretary (secretary of Communications) and Angie Franklin (treasurer of Fundraising). Steve Miller is Pony Tournament Director. There are also plenty of committee members.
All players — up to 18 per team — will stay with area host families. Coaches, umpires (four per game) and others will be housed in Lafayette hotels.
“One hundred eighty players are here for a week to enjoy the festivities, the community and Lafayette,” says Clark, who adds that it is common for 3,000 fans to pack into Loeb — located next to Columbian Park Zoo — for the final games of each session of the double-elimination tournament.
Games, which will be streamed by MTC Sports Network and broadcast by some Comcast outlets in the Midwest, are played by Major League Baseball rules. Players are permitted to use wood bats but most choose to swing metal.
All those baseball fans will be lodging, dining and shopping in Lafayette during their stay.
To measure the Colt World Series’ economic impact, a company was hired a few years ago to due an audit. Clark says $1.2 million came back to the community.
“The average person spends $4,000 while they’re here in town for a week,” says Clark. “It’s a total community event. The money we raise stays here in Lafayette.”
More years than not, the Colt World Series brings in enough of a profit for the organization to make a contribution to Lafayette Parks & Recreation.
Clark estimates there are around 12,000 Colt teams worldwide with about 50 in Indiana, mostly from the Lafayette, Terre Haute and Evansville areas. To make the CWS, teams have to make it though sectional, regional and zone tournaments.
Zones to be represented this year will U.S. North, U.S. South, U.S. East and U.S. West, Asian Pacific, Caribbean, European and Mexico. As hosts, the Lafayette All-Stars will participate. The winner of the Harry Bradway qualifying tournament (Hoosier North, Hoosier South, Lafayette Lightning or Rossville) will also earn a Colt World Series berth.
Broadcaster Bradway and teacher/coach John Eberle helped bring the CWS to Lafayette after observing the tournament in Shawnee, Okla., in 1968.
Bradway, who is in his late 90’s, was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
Except for 1972 when it was held in Tampa, Fla., the event has been played at Loeb Stadium (dedicated as Columbian Park Recreational Center in 1940 and home to several teams and events including the IHSAA State Finals in 1974, 1975 and 2005).
The first Colt World Series was staged in Ferry, Ohio, in 1953. Lafayette teams have hoisted the championship trophy four times (1977, 1992, 1999, 2000).
Plans call for the 2018 CWS to expand to 12 teams — six U.S. and six international. Japan is to send a team as is Puerto Rico (which is now included the Caribbean zone).
Loeb Stadium in Lafayette, Ind., is home of the Colt World Series for baseball players ages 15-16. The 10-team event for 2017 is slated for Aug. 4-9. (Steve Krah Photo)
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