With beautiful weather to boot, the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association (SAMBA) hosted their Larry Rindero Memorial Tournament over the May long weekend for the first time since the COVID pandemic began.
Twenty-seven teams across all four age groups played a total of 54 games at Legion Memorial Diamonds in just four days.
Kurtus Millar, the president of SAMBA, had more than enough on his plate over the weekend.
As he is the head coach of one of the 18U AAA Cardinals teams, Millar coached four games in Red Deer on Friday and Saturday. Then, after coming back to St. Albert, Millar found himself covering for a missing umpire for a 15U tournament game. On Sunday he watched his youngest son's 11U team play a couple of tournament games before he worked late into the evening finalizing the tournament standings for Monday's final games.
"I love the stress of planning something like this," Millar wrote in an email sent just after midnight on Monday morning.
"The kids are definitely worth the work."
Millar said tournament planning usually begins the first week of April after the teams are formed.
"It takes all our families to put the event on; scorekeeping, pitch counts, scoreboard controllers, and music players for each game," he wrote. "I also have to thank the SAMBA grounds crew who work extremely hard to prep the fields for each and every game.
"The Arlia family, who run our concession, put in very long hours to provide everyone with some great ballpark meals and snacks."
Among the crew of dedicated volunteers working together to plan the tournament is Matt Rindero, the son of Larry Rindero. "He takes a lot of pride in the tournament and he's been a huge part of it," Millar wrote.
Baseball is a three-legged stool
"Baseball is a three-legged stool; you’ve got players, you’ve got coaches, and you’ve got the umpires," said John Bresler, SAMBA's umpire co-ordinator.
According to Bresler there were between 25 and 30 umpires scheduled for this year's tournament.
One of the biggest challenges for Bresler, he said, is making sure the right umpires are scheduled for the right games.
“It’s a big chore," he said. "What we are trying to do is ensure we’re getting a balanced schedule so we don’t have one kid doing two games and another one doing eight, so we balance it out.
"At the end of the day it works, we make sure that the kids can play ball."
Approaching 50 years
With this year's tournament being the first since 2019, Bresler said SAMBA didn't want to do too much this year. "We said ‘It’s after the pandemic, lets run this one cleanly and that’s it.'”
The year 2023 will mark 50 years of operation for SAMBA. While nothing has been planned yet, Bresler said the association is hoping to do something special to celebrate.
"Hopefully then we will make it a big affair," he said.
Parkland Blue were this year's 11U and 18U champions, while Red Deer won the 13U and 15U divisions.